When I Began to Listen to my Bones
I think growing up has been pretty weird. I’ll start by saying that I think, at twenty three, I have only just begun. From the time I became a technical “adult”, I lingered within the confines of what I already was. Mostly because I thought I was perfect. I think all eighteen-year-olds think they are perfect, or they revel in their fucked-up decisions, still believing despite them that they are the best thing that’s ever happened.
I didn't make fucked-up decisions, though. I made the right decisions. I traveled through my eighteen years of life on a contrived path of brilliance, potential, and momentum. I finally started coming into my own when I turned sixteen, realizing that I was smart, I knew things, I had talents, ambitions, and also beauty. People liked me, I wasn't as awkward and gangly as I once was. I was powerful. So I went to college, like all successful, pretty, top-ten students do. And I didn't really fuck around too much. I did well, maintained the laser-focus I’m known for, continued walking in my straight line, confined by my self-imposed idea of perfection.
I realized recently that this tendency I've had for the majority of my life is less a matter of maintaining an image or upholding my own idea of success, but others’. I was preemptively limiting my actions, behavior, life-altering decisions, everything, based on how I thought it would make other people feel. I've never been as concerned with how I make myself feel as I am with how I make other people feel about me. I realize the importance that a single word can make to a person, so I threw a protective blanket around everyone I've ever come in contact with and never offended anyone. I elected to protect them from my own original thoughts without them even asking. The ironic part about this is that no one in my life is particularly controlling, and no one holds an interest in influencing my actions. The more I do for myself, the more I realize this. I've been self-supportive since I walked out of my house on my way across the country for college. I don’t have anyone lording anything over me at all. I did this to myself. This is a strange revelation to have, as a young person, because young people not only think we are perfect, we also love to blame other people for our various neuroses.
The whys and hows of this self-created problem have yet to be totally hashed out. I don’t know how to explain, past feeling intense judgment, imagined or not, from most in my life from a very young age. A sensitive child from the start, a look of ccondescensionor a sigh of disapproval from my mother was enough to shut me up for days. My family would, all in good fun, would razz me and laugh, and I didn't handle it well. I was painfully shy, embarrassingly so. Where some kids are precocious, cruel, and curious, I was meek, silent, and thoughtful. The possibility of me having some sort of bbehavioral or social issue back then was an actual concern for my parents. They never told me this, but I felt it. I felt every person around me and how they were feeling so strongly that I would melt myself into them, confused and making myself hollow for them. And I continued doing this, even as I became socially capable and less gawky. I was a hollow in a tree that other people were invited to put their feelings into, shovel me full of their opinions and judgment and concern, until I was full to the top. I did that to myself. No one made me hollow out my insides for them, I just did it on my own.
I never embraced the transformative way that life can take you and shake you up, I've never been okay with being shaken until I decided to listen to myself. As a senior in college, about to graduate, my straight-laced projection began to falter. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So I did what every gifted person who doesn't have a plan has done in the last fifty years: I took the LSAT. The funny thing about the LSAT is, it sucks. It blows. It’s the worst. And I knew I didn't like it, and I felt somewhere deep in my bones that I didn't really want to sit in an office in a suit, playing office by myself just like when I was a kid. But I didn't listen to my bones, because everyone around me was just so utterly impressed. And it was easy to say. “I’m going to law school” is an immediate and effective way to shut everyone around you up about what you’ll be doing after graduation, the most intensely annoying question in the history of college.
“Shut up, bones, my family is proud of me. Keep quiet, bones.”
So I went to law school, and everyone shut up and stopped asking me questions, which is the part I enjoyed. But after a couple of months in school, my bones began to scream, and I could no longer ignore them. I was sick all the time, I was tired in a way that makes your life creak past you and time slip through cracks in your fingers. Like sugar spilled on the floor, you’ll never get that time back. I numbly pushed myself through the first semester, working full time on top of things, making matters worse. I didn't make many friends, I didn't relate, I didn't want to listen to another lecture given by another self important lawyer who agreed to speak to the class because it was their duty to spout off the things about their life that we may want to aspire to one day. The classes themselves weren't thrilling, but I am good at school. I didn't find the career interesting. I didn’t want to do it. And my bones, they were complaining louder every day.
So I quit. And, ducking quickly into the corner with my arms over my head, I waited for the world to grind to a halt. It never did. I had quit something, stumbled off my proscribed path and everything was not ruined. What a revelation it was to feel this happen. To be a little bit lost for the first time in my little life. And I’m still lost, a little. I still am not totally clear what I’m going to do or how, but I do know that when my bones start to make noise, I need to listen. I need to allow them to call out to the things I want, to the people I want, and to dismiss those that they do not respect or need.
Doing these things, I can feel myself becoming the type of person I should be. Because while not perfect, I am great. We all are. I want to be my great, not yours, not my moms, but mine. I am bigger than I was. I am fuller of myself than I ever have been, because I’m not hollowing myself out any more. I’m not moving over anymore, I’m not getting out of the way.
So allow your bones to sing out to you when they are happy, and cry out to you when they aren't. Allow yourself a moment in the day to quit ignoring the things about your life that you don’t like, and figure out what to do about them. Don’t numb yourself to the things we do every day because it is expected. Let’s all just start respecting these bones a little more, loving them a little more, getting lost and allowing them to guide us home.