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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sometimes 16...Ain't so Sweet. In fact, it NEVER IS!


Whoa. I just finished running a SUPER Super Sweet 16 and have only one thing to say to y'all. Thank the dear sweet Lord that I am no longer 16 or 18 or even 21. Just the thought of going back to those godforsaken years makes me want to run in a bedroom, slam a door, and scream and/or cry depending on which hormones were misfiring at that particular moment.

I did not have a typical "woe is me" teenagehood. I was not so skinny that people called me Olive Oil (don't you want to ring their scrawny necks when Supermodels complain about that???). I wasn't so poor that I had to wear Walmart no-name sneakers to gym class. I didn't have terrible acne or a lazy eye OR a speech impediment, but I did have another...much less visible but equally painful defect. I had to...just HAD TO please everyone and even the slighest negative response to my actions, appearance, words, (real or imagined) had the power to derail me.

As a young child, I was literally a ball of unbrideled joy. I said whatever obscure thought popped into my fanciful little brain. I wore tap shoes in Sam's Club because I liked the way my feet sounded clicking down the aisles and bathing suits with jellies to the mall (and everywhere) because I thought I was DAMN cute. I even used to wear a sweatband under my bangs to pre-school and tell people I was Olivia Newton John. I was a powerful, unflappable little force of nature and my mom encouraged all my quirks to the point where I thought I was normal.

Then I headed off to middle school and BOOM. Suddenly loud and quirky was no longer adorable and entertaining. I needed to be "popular" and "cool" not to mention thin, pretty, liked by boys, and not too over-confident, because being "too good" meant you were a bitch who deserved to be tormented by all the other girls in your wolf pack. I was not well prepared for these years at all. I don't think anyone was ever mean or judgemental towards me until I turned 11. I also don't really have a "mean bone" in my body, so I just didn't understand all the judging, whispering, gossiping, excluding etc. etc. that occurred in middle and high school.

Rather than go into a shell, I became OVERLY social. Even throughout college (hence the excessive drinking) I wanted so badly to join them instead of beat them at this game of popularity. Watching these girls and boys dance last night- in outfits that cost more than my entire wardrobe- it all came flooding back. Even though they looked like they had the time of their lives I just knew that one girl was thinking "omg my party will NEVER be as good as this one. I ought to just die now" or, "I really don't feel comfortable letting this boy grind on me but if I tell him to stop he will tell all the other boys and no one will ever like me" or "Me and so-and-so are wearing the same dress and I'm a 4 and she's a 0. I am never eating again" or even the other side of it: "ew, look at Jane. She is so dancing waaay to close to Claire's boyfriend. Let's all call her a slut and not speak to her until someone else does something to piss us off!".

UG it's SO terrible! I used to care sooo much what others thought that I was literally crippled. In college I actually moved off campus sophomore year because I hated living somewhere where everyone knew me and (in my mind) was looking at me and judging me from the moment I got out of bed until I returned to it.

Nowadays, 99% of the time I could actually care less. I tried to keep up with the Jones's (this is IMPOSSIBLE in Manhattan btw) then stopped. I attempted to whittle my body to smaller than size 6 to match the skinny girls in my sorority then just stopped caring. Today when I go to a party I always feel cute but more importantly I realize that NO ONE IS LOOKING AT ME!! Everyone is waaaay too self-conscious and worrying about themselves to notice if I have a couple streaks of self tanner on my legs or a little pooch in my stomach or my shoes are from Target.

One of my favorite things to do is read about (and tell other people- who ask me- about) self worth and our instrinsic value as human beings. How powerful we are. How powerful our thoughts are and how destructive they can be. The difference between "the ego" and "the self". I actually considered going back to school to study Positive Psychology at UPENN because I believe in this concept so fully, but...I also am not ready to give up my paychecks and go into debt to pay for school and all, so for now I just preach to people. Here's some great Echkart Tolle quotes (if you don't know who he is and have the slightest bit of introspection or a desire to improve your internal self, I recommend reading everything he's ever written):

"ECKHART TOLLE: True self-esteem goes much deeper. It's finding the source of power and aliveness deep inside. We talked about the lake. Realizing that within the depth of your being, there is that continuous source of intense aliveness and power, which is the stillness out of which everything comes.

The potential, the unexpressed potential for all form is there for every human being. You have to become still.

OPRAH WINFREY: So true self esteem is realizing that that sense of being, that presence is there?

ECKHART TOLLE: It comes out of the stillness.

OPRAH WINFREY: That it comes out of the stillness and that presence in me is the same as the presence in all people.

ECKHART TOLLE: Yes.

OPRAH WINFREY: And when you recognize that and act from that space within yourself, that is when you have true self-esteem.

ECKHART TOLLE: That's true self-esteem and self esteem then is not, no longer derived from the belief that you are better than somebody else.

OPRAH WINFREY: And so you are not attached to the labels or the roles that you play. And you speak about the many various roles that everybody has.

ECKHART TOLLE: Yes. And then you're no longer devastated by criticism or get very angry when you're criticized as the ego does."

Some people reminisce about high school and college while bemoaninng the mundaneness of adult life. Not me. I've gotten happier and more confident as I get furrrrther and further away from "Sweet 16" and my adult life kicks ass. I wish I could hug all those little teens and impart my wisdom to them, but I know they'd be like "ew don't touch me. You're old, and fat and your dress is from like, H&M or somewhere". Sigh, like all life lessons this is one they're going to have to learn for themselves...or grow up to be the Real Housewives of NYC.