When I was younger, my family would call me melodramatic. It always bothered me because sometimes I was expressing my true feelings with a lot of passion behind my words. I often felt misunderstood and not heard. To be honest, I still sometimes feel unheard or misunderstood, but through the help of therapy and maturity, I can handle these feelings better.
I found a preserved diary in a box of archives of my adolescence. It contains notes between friends, mix tapes, my eighth-grade graduation speech, and poems I wrote in my youth. They are embarrassing to read through, but I love that I have a piece of my innocence preserved in a box decorated with Britney and Mariah stickers. I also enjoy seeing how much I have evolved over the years.
In most of my entries, I document the song I was listening to at the time of writing it. It is fun to see the music I was listening to. Everything from Savage Garden to Christina Aguilera. There are songs that I forgot existed until I stumbled across them in the pages of my diary. I am laughing at how many times I wrote Mari + insert name across the pages of my journal. Maybe my mom was right in saying that I was boy crazy.
Most importantly, I recognize how much I enjoyed the attention of boys. At the fragile ages of thirteen and fourteen, the perception of myself began shifting and I relied on the acceptance of boys wanting to be more than just my friend. It appears I had a new crush almost every month and thrived on boys calling the house to speak to me. I remember my parents telling me not to get wrapped up in boys. My father kept it real and told me the motivation behind boys calling to speak to me, and it was a big contrast compared to my own thoughts as to why they wanted to talk to me.
In reading my entries, I hone in on my need to be validated by outside sources. I was a major tomboy growing up who was often made to feel less than by the other girls in my class who attempted to define what being a “girly” girl was. I remember some of my “friends” making comments about me looking different – from my curly dark hair, dark eyes, and skin and saying things like, “I don’t know what to do with you.” In writing that, I now see how wrong it was for them to make statements like that towards me and single me out because I was tanned and beautiful! So what if I looked different? My differences made me unique. It is something I recognize now, but back then got lost in their words.
It was their lack of acceptance in my differences or perhaps their need to feel superior due to their own insecurities, that made me value the attention of boys. If I was not their definition of pretty, the boys surely disagreed. In retrospect, it is silly to put so much value in what boys thought, I was young and that gave me some of my power back. If I was so “odd” looking, then why did boys call my house non-stop to talk to me? Okay, maybe I knew stats and was interesting to speak to, but it boosted my confidence.
It was hard to put into words then, what I can so clearly see now. There was the disconnection of being a teenager with a lot of feelings and struggling to say that I was being made to feel different because of my race. It was a fine line and I struggled to communicate that with my parents mostly because I did not know how to label it. My parents saw my acting out or feeling so deeply as being a dramatic teenager. I was a girl who made everything the end of the world and failed at explaining how I was feeling, which led to a lot of miscommunications.
I have always expressed my feelings loudly but failed to communicate the root of my pain. My parents saw their daughter acting out, when I remember feeling like no one understood my internal struggle, which I cannot blame my parents for not understanding. I could not find words to describe how I was feeling back then and only in maturing and understanding what racial microaggressions are can I understand that I was subjected to it almost every day.
|How cool is this original Soda brand |
shoe box covered in stickers? Throwback to the 90's.
How was I supposed to put words to something I was experiencing when I did not have the words to describe it? It was not flat-out racism, but their words made me feel dirty. They made me feel not enough, but I would ask myself if it because I was a tomboy? It has taken me years to figure out why some of the girls that I called my friends made me feel the way they did. In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that they did not do or say the things they did intentionally. We did not know any better. I can only hope that they too have evolved and are raising their children to be kind and accept other’s differences.
It is through self-acceptance and understanding what microaggressions are, that help me identify them in my memories. The trauma of not feeling good enough never was about my character, but rather had a lot to do with ignorant parenting and children who knew very little about how their words could scar their friends. In identifying these microaggressions, I can put to rest some of my insecurities. Had I known then what I know now, I would like to think that I would place less value on their opinions and speak out against their distasteful words. Perhaps, I would have not let their cruelty affect me and would have placed less value on boys’ interest in me.
It has taken me years to unravel myself from their image of me. The feeling of not being enough hurts deeply. It is a wound that stays with you even after you recognize that you are enough and that their words were riddled in lack of self-esteem and ignorance. The anguish subsides temporarily but lays beneath the surface when someone looks at you funny or makes you feel different.
I want to believe that my peers and I have grown up and understand the impact our actions and words had on one another. I cannot hold onto things that serve no purpose in my life any longer. I can only accept what has long passed and move forward with my life. Besides, I like my dark curly hair, eyes, and year-round tan.
P.S. I will admit, and I roll my eyes as I type this, my parents were partially right about me being melodramatic. I “loved” every boy I wrote about and now understand why they were so quick to roll their eyes at me when I started to sing my sad songs and sniffle to myself on the couch. They were not ignoring my “pain,” they were letting it pass until I “fell in love” with the next boy. Teenagers … they can drive their parents mad.