Obvious admission: I spend a lot of time roaming around in my own brain. I think that writers become so because their minds just won’t shut up and it’s the only way to quiet themself down. My mind has a frequent mantra: “What will everyone think?”
I hate that mantra, even more than I hate What Would Jesus Do?
“What will everyone think?” is something I’ve repeated in my head so often and for so long that it’s actually had a deep affect on my life. Some of it’s good like, “what would people think if I shaved a bald spot onto the top of my head just to see what it would be like?”
But then that same annoying thought has stopped me from other things like: “What would people think if I didn’t do all the things I’m supposed to? What would people think if I hurt someone’s feelings by saying no? What would people think if I lived exactly the way I want to…”
What would people think if you became the Authentic You? If you stopped pleasing everyone and started pleasing yourself? Huh. Not talking masturbation, here, but you know what I mean. What if instead of taking the tiny overcooked piece of turkey on the plate, you took the most succulent, the one you’d usually save for someone else? You know what would happen? You’d have a great dinner that you didn’t have to drown in gravy.
I’ve got lost in my own metaphor here.
High school. Me. Poetic girl trying to hide in baggy clothes with half my hair shaved, the other half long and covering my eyes. (I looked like the guy from Simply Red, and that was not hot, let me tell you.)
I could hide behind my hair, my clothes. I could be quiet. Because, you know, what if someone saw me? What if they knew what kind of family I had? What if they saw how scared I was all the time?
In my senior year, I met a boy. He was two years younger, which seemed an impassable ocean of time. We had Spanish together. We hated each other in public. In private, I’d drive over to his house at night, sneak past his parents’ window and creep up to his room. We’d make-out for hours. Every time I felt nervous and sick with the thought of “What would people think if they knew?” I also felt alive because for once, I was doing something I wanted to do.
One night, lying in his bed, he lifted the hair from my eyes, pushed it back so he could stare at me. He said nothing. I was terrified of what he was thinking. What would he think of me? “What?” I asked. It was all I could manage. I couldn’t say: “What are you thinking about me?” All I could say was “What?” my voice quiet as a butterfly fluttering, as if the words themselves hurt.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
It was the first time anyone had ever called me that. And I felt like it was the first time someone really saw me and told me not what they thought of me, but what I wanted to think of myself.
I’ve learned over the years that it doesn’t really matter what people think. What matters is what you think about yourself and your actions. There are so many ways we can be controlled: by rules, by families, by our passions. It’s all outside stuff. So that constant mantra in my head—I’ve reworded it. Now I say: “What do you think, Tanya? Are you okay with this?” And it’s transformed me. It really has.