I have a problem, but keep this in mind as you read – I’m overcoming it. This is not about the nail! (see video below) This problem is something I notice every day and as long as I notice it, I can change it.
My entire life, I have placed myself below the next person. My thoughts, my emotions, my opinions – everything of mine was less important than yours or your mother’s. The homeless person I would walk by downtown? More superior than me. He or she must have gone through so much. They’ve experienced life-changing things, therefore, they know more.
The lady across the street? I don’t know her but she seems very businesslike and serious. No way can I compare. I’m a silly person with several tiny silly people around me. She has school and business and life under control. I’m a chaotic mess more often than not.
My Facebook friends – I love you guys, I really do. I feel closer to some of you than I have ever allowed myself to be with anyone in person. You’ve all reached out to me when things were clearly going wrong. You’re all businesspeople, or parents or students or artists or all of the above.
But often times, I feel like I can’t have a conversation with that kind of person because I will clearly be dumber than him/her.
What have I done in life? I lived beneath my parents, like most people I know. But I didn’t go to college after high school. I didn’t get a degree. I didn’t do anything but stay home, raise babies and write stories. No real-world life experiences. No education past my high school years. I clearly am inferior to everyone else in the world.
UGH, wrong! This is what I need to tell myself – that this kind of thinking is wrong. I need to raise myself to be level with all of you humans. For years I’ve been led to believe I make too many mistakes or I need to “grow up” or I’m just not doing things the way they’re supposed to be done. For years, I’ve had to answer to someone for everything I said or did – or didn’t do. I was never left to my own devices. I was never left un-judged. Every minuscule thing was under a microscope.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming anyone. It really has a lot to do with the culture I was raised in and gender roles. Were my parents playing gender roles? No way. My mom was just as much the breadwinner as my dad was, if not more sometimes. They did what had to be done. But the majority of families in this culture stay within their gender roles – very strongly. It would seem, though, that I’ve always been on some kind of middle ground and I have allowed myself to be talked down to for so many years.
Whoa, I know…I confused you. Let me explain.
I was raised in a community of Romanian Pentecostals here in America. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding – our culture is very similar. Over the last maybe 13 years, I was treated differently by many of those around because I didn’t speak the Romanian language as well as the others. Not all, but very many of these people felt superior around me and boy, did some of them relish that. I was often made the butt of jokes when we would be with a group of people and I just sat in silence, handling my babies and pretending like I didn’t understand what they were saying. Ha, but I knew! I always knew exactly what they were laughing at and poking jokes at. I understand 95% of the Romanian language but my grammar is off when speaking, so I avoid speaking the language unless I’m speaking with an elderly person or someone “fresh off the boat.” To them, if I’m not speaking the language, then clearly I don’t understand and am looked like the goose among swans.
But you know what? I let them laugh at me. I let them think of me as dim. I wouldn’t stand up for myself because I was too mentally exhausted all the time. I had to fit the standard of a woman within the culture which was extremely stressful. I had to pretend like my entire focus was only on my home and cooking and family – which, it is there the majority of the time but…
…I’m an eccentric, too.
I always have been and I won’t give up that part of me. I can’t, even if I tried. It’s who I am and who I have been for as long as I can remember. My children see it daily but out of all the adults I have been surrounded by for the last 13 years, only a handful know the real me. I’m the only person I know within this culture that is this way:
I’m a reader and lover of words. I’m a nerd. I’m a fanatic at heart with a passion for several different interests. I can level with teenagers and adolescents better than the adults within this culture.
Now let’s flip this around and put me within the people outside of this Romanian culture. I’m in America, people, right?
To the rest of the world, I am an eccentric stay-at-home mom. As I said before, I lack any real post-high school education. I don’t have any knowledge in one specific topic or subject of interest. I’m not perfect with words – I still make ridiculous grammatical errors. I’m not a professional in any way. Even when it comes to nerdism – I have a general knowledge of fandoms but I am not so knowledgable within just one. I have a passion for Lord of the Rings, as most of you know. It’s Middle Earth that takes me and runs with me. Have I read everything Tolkien? No. I’ve seen all the movies, though, but that makes me not a “true” Tolkien fan to a massive chunk of Tolkienites. So even there, I hold back and don’t let my true light shine. Even there I feel inferior.
I know I sound ridiculous but this is something that I am seeing in myself more every day – a fear to stand up straight and proud and be who I am. I feel like I’m dragging my feet in the earth, trying to step up and see myself as an equal with every other adult around me. I’m trying to tell myself that my beliefs and my opinions and my feelings are just as important as everyone else’s. I don’t know why I’m struggling with this but it’s something I need to – and will – overcome. I just find myself wondering if I’m the only one like this and then on top of that, wondering what the heck anyone sees in me when I step into the picture. Do I come across as dumb? Do I come across as a total <insert bad word here>? Do I people find me smart or clever or what?
I know these are not things I can really find answers to. I just need to live on and move forward. I need to stop holding back every word or thought that comes out of my mouth as if they’re not worth anything.
I need to be a more courageous Lilian…and I will be. Lately, I have been. Bear with me, World.