Often I think that I act out of fear in every step I take. Fear of rejection has shaped the person I am today, starting with my biological father (aka the Sperm Donor) and moving on through my classmates at school, my unrequited crushes, and even in sharing my opinions for fear of being shunned.
Social awkwardness has made me a loner, most comfortable in the company of small groups or no one at all. I don’t fare well at parties, I don’t especially like meeting new people, and I don’t consider myself the greatest maintainer of friendships. Mostly, if you do something to get on my nerves or piss me off, I will keep quiet about it and roll my eyes instead of saying something and risking offending you. Daria Morgendorffer once said “I don’t have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else.” I tend to have low esteem for myself and for others, because as much as I’d like to be a kinder, more decent person, I’m just as selfish and screwed up as everyone else. And that makes me keep to myself, lest I unleash it on the world.
In the past there were many nights where I’d lie awake, unable to sleep, wishing with all my might to turn back the clock. Not that I wanted to start over, necessarily, but to maybe have gone through the past thirty-five years making different choices in how the actions of others affected me. Sometimes I am glad that my experiences have made me who I am today, but other times I want to know who I’d be if rejection didn’t bother me, if I didn’t let the barbs and stings of others break my proverbial bones, if I said what I thought and didn’t care how I was judged, if I (much as I hate this phrase) “danced like no one was watching,” if I didn’t cry to the guidance counselor in fifth grade because I wasn’t popular.
Of course it’s not too late to live like this. There’s a wonderful quote at the end of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
I’d like to start over, right now, with no fear. It’s a funny thing, rewiring your circuits to respond differently. It takes all of your willpower and none of it. Chew on that one for awhile.
This essay was originally written in August, 2009. It is published here with minor edits.