What I wish I had known at 22

I discovered a Facebook page called “Wait But Why?”  Some of their posts tickled my thinker, amused me, offended me, and befuddled me.  But I kept checking in to see what they were saying.  This week they are starting a conversation with their followers with the intention to keep going each Sunday with a new conversation.  They intend to ask a new discussion provoking question each week, calling the activity the “Dinner Table.”  I love the idea so here is my thoughts on this week’s question, What do you wish you knew at twenty-two.  http://waitbutwhy.com/table/wish-you-had-known-at-22

I wish I knew at twenty-two how resilient I am.  At twenty-two, working as a teacher, the brick wall of strength I thought I was, was beginning to crumble.  At the time I didn’t use the image of a brick wall for myself, but looking back it seems to fit how I saw myself, a strong, solid wall standing firm on my beliefs and world view.  A fairly recent college graduate I had weathered the college years while working, being in band, orchestra and chorus, taking classes, making a home, spending summers overseas, and having friends.  The first year on the job after college when I was twenty I saw myself as a bit of a super woman.  I brought instrumental music back to a school that had none for many years, I designed and built sets for the local community theatre, I founded a community orchestra, I worked part-time to stretch the tiny teacher budget I was living on, I had friends, I created a home for myself.  I had black-and-white values that shaped my life.  I was a brick wall, strong and solid.

But some of my bricks were beginning to crumble.  It was tough making ends meet.  I was beginning to juggle bills with my desire to find comfort in things that needed buying.  The small town I was in wasn’t proving to nurture my need for a lively, vital hometown.  My colleagues at work no longer saw me as a novel and entertaining stranger but rather as the outsider.  When I reported a fellow teacher for sexually harassing/assaulting me the Superintendent dismissed my concerns as inappropriate rather than his words and hands-on behavior as inappropriate.  I began to question myself.  A disastrous encounter with a brother of one of my students knocked me off balance leading me hide and cower.  My insecurities were mounting.  My sense of balance was teetering.  More of the bricks that formed me – the brick wall – were crumbling and my vision for myself became clouded and dim.  By the end of my time there it was as if all that remained of me was a brittle shell, I was no longer a strong, solid brick wall.  I could barely get from my bed to the kitchen, let alone get out the door and go to work so I resigned in defeat.  All that remained of the brick wall that was the dust.  I became dust.  Dry, broken brick dust.

My metaphor changed and I began seeing myself as billowy, diaphanous fabric, perhaps chiffon.  There wasn’t much substance left to me and I fluttered around depending on what was happening around me.  I worked thirty jobs in the next fifteen years and moved fifteen times.  I worked two or three jobs at once when the wind inside my head was blustery, and no jobs when the wind died down.  Many of the moves were because I’d burned too many bridges in my living situation.  I juggled too many bills.  I’d hurt too many relationships.  At first I saw my chiffon metaphor as being iridescent with rainbow reflections projecting off me, but as the years went by, the rainbows faded and the fabric wore thin.  I wrote an essay about the diaphanous rainbow projecting fabric that was once me no longer billowing but rather barely holding itself together where the threads had worn thin.  A strong breeze would cause the edges to just fall away.  Soon I would cease to exist.  I entrusted the essay to a therapist who put it in a folder in a locked file cabinet, we never spoke of it.  I was devastated.  I thought if I told her how fragile I was she could somehow knit me back together.  Where I once was convinced I was a brick wall, I came to believe I was nothing but disintegrating threads.

I am neither a brick wall nor disintegrating threads, but rather a strong and solid, billowy and diaphanous human, a beloved child of God, a smart, funny, caring, imperfect, resilient human.  If there is a metaphor that serves me now I guess it would be a tree.  My roots are deep and strong from the years I’ve spent working on my wellness, the hundreds of hours in self examination, and the depth of my relationship with and understanding of my creator.  My trunk is tall and strong, but doesn’t crumble or snap with pressure, it actually morphs itself around the pressure and incorporates it into itself. When pushed by the wind, it bends and flexes.  My branches and leaves may billow about in the wind, much like the diaphanous fabric I once saw myself as, but when wear and tear happens to the old leaves they become as rainbows, and as they fall away my tree bears new leaves!  I do not fray and disintegrate,  Just as the tall and strong, flexible and colorful tree, I too am resilient.  How I wish I knew that when I was twenty-two.


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