Monday, February 3, 2014

The Passing Of That Feeling

This weekend, I got to be a part of a wonderful thing: a friend having a good interview for a thing she wants to do in life: editing magazines.

In fact, she's actually already doing it. Really well. But she isn't able to climb up to her other goals in that position, so she's going for it again.

Before she left, after hugging twice, saying goodbye three times, then talking for another twenty minutes (the usual Minnesotan goodbye), she paused and said, "You know, I'm really banking on them not having many other applicants."

"Why? Traci, you do realize that even if they had another applicant, or twelve, you'd be their competition, right?"I replied. "You'd be giving them a run for their money."

"Oh, you," she said with a wide smile. We hugged again, spoke for a quick two more minutes, then said the last goodbye and waved as she made her way out into the cold weather, making her promise to text me when she got home.

As I closed the door and took a peek out of my eye hole to make sure she made it down my steps okay, I thought about what she'd said: she hoped that no one else had applied so her chances at getting the position were better. And it wasn't because she was lazy. After her interview was finished, we'd had lunch a couple of hours later, and she'd described how she was already working on two welcome letters (when they only requested one), and was also perfecting another piece they'd requested. She was honestly worried that someone else was better at the work than her, and that she wasn't worth hiring, despite editing and creating layouts for two magazines, creating her own strictly monthly digital magazine, and working on a constant flow of freelance work.

What is it about us that doesn't allow us to be happy with what we do? Despite our accomplishments, we somehow don't allow ourselves to believe that we are worth the time, efforts, or praise. We're deemed replaceable within our own minds so easily, this looming doom that what we have will be taken away like a child who is acting spoilt.

In addition to this conversation, there was another during my Chinese New Year celebration, something I started thanks to Fruits Basket. My friends don't seem to indulge in my fun, but embrace it. And, although tradition at this point, it is always different every year. And, although different, it has always been a blast.

This year held a friend I've only met a few times, but each time we've met, our conversations were fantastic, in depth, and honest. We'd discuss. And everything was important because opinions were weighed, well thought out, and respected.

I read his fortune, most of it dealing with work. It spoke about him needing to keep his mouth shut on something he overhears, and knowing that he shouldn't talk about it as it will ruin his chances at success. He listened with skeptical eyes roaming around the cards, more interested in how I was presenting the information, tying in each card, making sure he understood what I was saying.

Afterward, he said, "I'm going to give you some advice for the future, too, if you don't mind." This wasn't him acting better than me, but offering an equal experience way to give me something to think about as I did him (after all, even if you don't believe in magic, you take away something to ponder when you get your fortune told).

What started as a quick fifteen minutes before returning to my party turned into an hour and a half. He asked about my job, which I am currently stressed over as I slowly begin to understand how Big Company Culture works. I am slowly recovering, but I have been upset for the past two weeks at the intense changes. I've been questioning not whether I am strong enough to endure the changes, but whether I want to be strong enough to endure.

"You are a leader," he told me quite seriously when I explained this. "You aren't meant to follow. I can tell this."

"So I've been told." My tone is dry. I don't fully understand it, but I fight against my nature as a leader quite often. Growing up, I was told I was bossy for pushing my ideas, that I am too intimidating for men when I am as direct as I tend to be, and I just plain aren't "all I think I am". Random people within my life would tell me this, and I would believe them over the close people in my life. Almost as if a stranger is more willing to tell the truth over people who judge me an move on within moments.

When I was getting into acting, my director came to me and asked that I become an assistant director to his plays. I directed small scenes for his larger plays. I wrote small scripts for some scenes. He even would bounce ideas off of me in some moments, and he'd use what I'd come up with. At one point, he nominated me as an assistant director for a full play for a female director who was new to the playhouse. I was to gather the props needed by reading through the script; set up and execute tricks that happened within the play; gather actors/actresses for each show, keeping everyone accountable. I was fourteen years old.

I look back at this time and see that I wasn't living up to my full potential even then. I held myself back in many areas, arguing at points that I wasn't right for the part, that they shouldn't place such faith in my skills. I didn't understand why they were using me. And my father supported me 100%, driving me down to the place and volunteering as needed in case someone needed a break from the lighting station.

Looking back, I get it. They had an eager young artist who was clamoring to prove something. But when the opportunity came for me, I thought that I was a last resort. Whomever was better just wasn't available, and that left me. But I was fourteen years old. I don't think there are many teenagers out there who were scripting or directing scenes for paid local plays, ones that would generally sell out as they were well known. What I don't get, looking back, is my reaction to them wanting to build my potential. Where did I get this inclination that I wasn't good enough for what they wanted when they clearly could have gotten someone else if they wanted to.

Much of my growing life has been me being obnoxious, too much to handle, and just different. My best friend was a boy named Josh during my pre-elementary school days, me dragging him into the mischief of mud and hiding. I hated napping in pre-school because they led me away from creating things--crayons, paper, and building blocks had to be pried from my hands or else they'd be brought with me beneath the covers whilst the other children closed their eyes to dream of whatever four-year-olds dreamt about. When my pre-school teacher saw my father several years later, he took out a picture. Bernie cooed at how I'd grown, then gave my father a look, saying, "I would love to hear how things are going when she becomes a teenager." Because, see, I was considered rambunctious. The kindergarten teacher told my mother how wonderful and creative a student I was, but that I never listened when it was time to clean up. I was too busy finishing my latest masterpiece with paints on a "real" easel in my mind--I couldn't clean up when I wasn't done. While everyone was content with going back to the normal daily schedule, I couldn't understand why we'd ever stop in the middle of a project when we'd just gotten in a groove. And the need for me to finish overtook the teacher's need to sing about the days of the week.

My thought process: Why should I clean up now when I know I can in under two minutes, waiting then ten more minutes for the rest of the students to finish? I can be the last to clean up, as I need to get this yellow right there, with the blue.

School wasn't sure how to handle such a good student who didn't want to pay attention. I'd finish tests within minutes, then open a book to read for the next twenty as I waited for my peers to finish. I'd read while the teacher taught subtraction. I'd read ahead while the teacher read aloud and explained things to the other students. I'd read at recess until a friend would mention the swings were available. And I'd write. All the time. I'd create my own stationary for writing out of the computer printer paper; I have a vivid memory of this in the 6th grade, designing on the paper edges, and the popular girls demanding I made some for them (which I didn't...bitches). And my teachers during conferences praised my grades and ability with an additional, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but...your daughter reads too much."

Years and years of be being what we consider "independent and creative" now, yet labeled as something else as it was inconvenient for others while I was growing up.

Fast-forward to now, my discussion over my blue tablecloth, cleansing my fortune deck before placing it back into its container.

"Your friends really like you," Rick said looking over my shoulder into the living room. They are watching Fievel Goes West under the hand-painted dragon and goldfish kites, drinking plum wine and eating rice balls, as is my custom with the non-Chinese traditional food of moshi and pocky.

"I have a really great group," I replied, knowing all of my teeth are showing in my grin. "I am blessed to have every single one of them."

"Perhaps," he said, "but your friends really enjoy you. You are quite something to them, I can tell. They are all here because of you, and they can tell you bring such wonderful things to the table."

I shifted a bit, but the typical uncomfortable feeling I have is a bit dulled with the few glasses of wine I've had. The normal words flow through my lips, however, in a practiced behavior: "I wouldn't be this great without them. Surrounded by amazing people, this is what happens!"

"Yes, but you are the reason why they are here," he insisted. His eyes are directly on me, making sure that I am listening. "You are a muse, Mallory. Creative, particularly unique. You bring about the best in people. You urge others to look at things in a new light. Your interactions with people, you make them at ease. I see it. You bring about the happiness and laughter." He can tell I'm embarrassed at this point as I shrug and glance off. "You should accept this about yourself. And accept that you are a leader." He raised a brow. "You aren't meant to follow," he repeated. My eyes roamed over his face, mulling over his words as if tasting wine before deciding I should have a glass.

After a few moments, he tapped the table and said, "I'm going to take my leave. I am fairly tired, and my old self can't handle this anymore." It is about three in the morning. I stood up with him, still contemplating his words. "I will be interested to see you when you are in love," he tossed at me, and my attention snapped to him. His eyes were filled with mischief when he said, "I think you already are in love."

"With life?" I asked, confused beyond belief.

He shrugged. "Sure." He steps into the living room to say his goodbyes, announcing, "I give your Mallory back to you! I have exhausted her enough with my chatter." When he went to the door, I gave him a hug. I opened my mouth to ask him what he meant, but I hesitated and told him to drive safe instead. He had already given me a lot to think about. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know my involvement with his love remark. I knew he wasn't referring to himself, in a happy marriage with grown children.

These moments have been on my mind. What Rick has told me shouldn't be news. I have heard many others tell me that I am a good friend. But perhaps I brush this off because they say it with such awe, and I know that I am not the only good friend to be had, not with my group. And I have been told that I bring out the best in people before, or that I am a good leader. That I am creative, unique. I just haven't been able to accept this about myself, as Rick pronounced.

And I still don't know why. Some people would blame society, saying that it is typical for a female to feel as if they aren't allowed to step up. Some people would say that it is understandable as many people have had negative influences growing up. But I've realized that it is still my decision on how to handle my situation. I can keep holding myself back, allowing others to hold me back, from what I want to do in life. Or. I can start believing that I am just as much the positive things people have said about me as the negative. I can see how things ended up the way they did now, me working in a position where I get bored easily, wishing I were writing from dawn until dusk instead, but I can't understand why I allowed myself to get there, not really. I didn't allow it when I was five, pretending I was placing a cap on my purple paint until the teacher turned her back so I could open it back up and finish my damn masterpiece.

I am slightly jealous that my good friend has managed to keep on her path of what she wants to do in life. But, yet again, I am blessed with having her in my life because she's become an inspiration. Despite her fear, she does it anyway. And, before she left, she asked me to go over her welcome letters because she couldn't seem to tie any ends together. She wanted my opinion as a writer, and the ideas I gave her, shifting a paragraph here and adding some extra sense there, she said, "That is exactly what I needed. Ugh, I knew you'd know what to do."

Learning to trust myself as others do, as I did back before I was grouped into a box and told "This is how you're supposed to be". What an old concept that feels new and awkward every time. I could blame as many people as I want for not allowing myself to be happy or going for my dreams. But I still have a choice. And I choose to be strong in being the best me. And that includes my dreams.

Writing: here I come.

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