everything's gonna be fine
July 3, 2021 Saturday 1:24 PM
Yesterday, I did my TEFL module that instructs teachers on how to teach English and social behavior (an inherent part of instructing kids) to young learners.
And it made me curious about my own childhood. I didn't have many problems with any subjects in grade school. I remember doing well on reading— having a lot of fun during writing/journaling exercises— liking the spelling bees (I spelled the word "anxious" wrong and lost while in the top two—I remember finding that funny at the time, given how nervous I was with all the attention). I used to get really anxious when we played that math game where we had to stand up and do multiplication as quick as possible in front of everyone, but I did like the minute tests—I was good at those, generally. I remember crying and getting frustrated about math a couple times, but only ever at home.
I didn't like getting in trouble with teachers or inconveniencing them at all, because they scared me. I felt that if they scolded me, I was a bad child. Like, inherently bad. It really stuck with me whenever I got yelled at—by anyone, really, during childhood. For some reason, it just really felt like I was who they said I was. Bratty, whiny, tattletale, selfish, mean, etc. Being a kid, though, I had a short attention span, so I couldn't dwell much on those feelings. I remembered well, and every time I experienced a bad emotion, I think it compounded with the past—but in the long interims of contentedness/happiness, it really didn't matter. It wouldn't matter at all until I was 12.
I was reading my report cards from elementary school and, literally starting from kindergarten, they were reporting that I was bright/got along well with others but that I "lacked self-confidence." Teachers reported that writing was my strongest subject (along with math, sometimes), but when looking at the numbers, it seems kind of like I almost never did as well in Language Arts as I did in Social Studies or Science. "She seems afraid of making mistakes." When reporting what my potential challenges were, there is a notecard that says I seem to fear authoritarian figures.
I never felt particularly lonely or ostracized at school. I always had friends. But when I did cry, I couldn't stop and it made me panic. In general, a lot of things made me panic.
There are still moments from grade school that haunt me, existing more immediately on the surface, so that generally when I think of childhood, I think of those moments. And I think of me throwing tantrums and my grandma saying I was hard to deal with. I thought I was a "difficult child." Was I? My report cards indicate that I was actually well-behaved...
Hold on, I'm gonna go ask my mom.
Okay, so my mom told me that I wasn't a difficult child. Neither me nor my sister were. I was pretty tough to deal with as a toddler, though. Wow—I remember being punished. Being spanked, standing in corners or in time-out, refusing dinner and screaming and crying on the sidewalk lmao. I remember my mom telling me my sister did this and that, was grateful and polite, and I should've been more like her.
My mom said I was just really sensitive (both me and my sister), and that being a new parent, she didn't know how to deal with it. She didn't know what was wrong.
My parents also saved one of the letters I got from the school in middle school, saying that I had been absent too much and I ran the risk of getting in trouble. Mom said in middle school, I started holing up in my room and she didn't know what to do. She didn't want me to be alone. I said it was like a switch had been flicked—suddenly I could only remember the bad things.
My dad said I missed a lot of school because of my headaches. Mom added that people would get suspicious and say "maybe she just doesn't want to go to school" or they would blame the parents. I didn't say this, but it's probably true that I lied about my headaches sometimes. Perhaps often. I could've gone to school with the headaches, or at least gone in late if it was actually a migraine (I've talked abt this before, but my migraines are not too bad and I can treat them with over the counter). It was actually probably anxiety that led me to fake and stay home. School was exhausting because of how anxious I was about every little thing that happened. And I had never learned healthy coping mechanisms as a kid, so I was stuck in this cycle of self-hatred, desperately trying to avoid being a bad or weird kid in the eyes of others. My grades fluctuated, but mostly in 8th grade, which is when shit sort of hit the fan.
I didn't need to go to school every day anyways (says my dad lol). School wasn't very hard for me. I lost points for absences and, being too exhausted or anxiety-ridden to pay attention (or sometimes indignant at the kind of work we were doing—home ec was the stupidest fucking class. We didn't have a kitchen in our school, so we had to make boxed pudding... wtf?), I probably did poorly at certain kinds of work. I continued to miss school consistently all the way through high school. It was rare for me to go to school all 5 days in a week.
Mom, at this point in the conversation, went "waaaah," and hugged me. I know she felt visceral pain ("my heart shrank") whenever either Caroline or I felt hurt. And we hurt easily.
Sometimes, I wonder what could've prevented this sort of thing in a kid. It's clear that the groundwork for my anxiety/depression was laid in childhood (by which I mean, the negative coping mechanisms, since I seem to have been born with the emotional sensitivity)—I was deeply afraid of other people, of making mistakes, of being perceived in a negative way. I was never taught to deal with those distressing sorts of emotions, but really, who would've noticed? And how are you supposed to teach a child that their self-worth is not dependent on outside perception or how well one does something? It's not even that I wanted to be smart— I didn't really know what "smart" was—I just didn't want to disappoint anyone. And also I think I had fun learning (this is called intrinsic motivation).
I dunno. If I have that sort of kid one day, what am I going to do? I'm still emotional, quick to anger. I don't want to yell at them. Any time they're upset, it's because something hurts and they don't know how to fix it. Even if I don't understand that hurt, I have to help them through it, don't I? What if it's about a toy I won't buy them—then what? How do I juggle the embarrassment of public humiliation with empathy for a tiny, smelly human who wants a hunk of plastic that costs $40? I don't know. Is this even enough? I can't stop other people from people from yelling at my hypothetical child—all I can teach them is how to process it. How am I supposed to explain and show that feeling guilt/shame is not the end-all? That one negative interaction is not enough to ruin a person's opinion of you. That being in the wrong sometimes is natural. That a sincere apology is enough. That just because you've made a mistake doesn't mean you can't do better next time.
I can't even explain that to myself now. Or, well, I can, but it doesn't stop the ever-filling well of inferiority I feel at having hurt people. And my defensive unwillingness to admit I was wrong. Because if I admit I was wrong, then I have to face those feelings of responsibility, and I don't know how to confront them without it staining my entire self-esteem with the idea that I am a bad person.
My course talked about growth mindsets versus fixed mindsets. I tried not to think about it too much, but I truly am a person with a fixed mindset. It's kind of weird, because despite that, I have a lot of persistence. I don't feel I am a good writer, but somewhere deep inside me, I have this seed of inspiration and hope. I always enjoyed making up stories, and I had one teacher in seventh grade who told me I had talent. Those two things kept me going, but it's important to note that, to me, these are eternal truths (feels presumptuous to say, given I was only good at writing because I had practiced so much)—I place my value in honing inherent talent and not in the idea that I can improve at anything if I keep trying. My intrinsic motivations still seem to source from a fixed state of mind.
And part of my fixed state of mind, a huge hurdle, is that I don't feel I can get better at... being better. I doubt my ability to persist, and sometimes that's enough to make me quit something (but only after a long time of trying—sometimes years). Plus, my goals are at times really unrealistic and that's super discouraging. If I do something, I don't want to be okay at it, I want to be great. Despite that, they're are a lot of things I'm good at and few things I am truly skilled at. (Sometimes—like right now—I feel really bad that everything I learn ends up sourcing back to me and my stupid problems.)
I'm worried my anxiety will ruin everything and that I won't be able to control it. That the physicality of it will rattle me and I'll throw up (I would love that, wouldn't I? lololol). I'll have to resist the urge to fall back into my old mechanisms, the lying in bed and stuff. Children are rough and they will take a toll on me, I believe, even if they are super cute and excitable. They'll say things I don't want to hear, do things I can't control, I'll go home emotionally bruised and sensitive and swirling in a thick mire of all the mistakes I believe I made that day and the day before and the lifetime before.
How do I stop myself from doing that? Sometimes, I try to treat my brain like a child. When she gets anxious, I'll tell her she doesn't need to panic. But other times I get really frustrated and confused and sourceless, just like when I was a kid. Unable to map the thought process, unable to track the beginning of a new self-loathing blooming into my consciousness. Like when I was in Hawaii, and I felt that inexplicable hatred towards my sister and myself. Sobbing in the airport bathroom. I was talking to myself like a child, but part of me was still hissing—saying, what is this, a movie? Why are you pretending to cry? Oh, now you're laughing. Why are you laughing? Do you think being aware of how stupid this is will somehow fix this? Or no, you're just pretending again, you want to be the type of person who refuses to take her own emotions seriously? Do you think whoever's watching you will feel sorry, especially now that they see you trying to laugh it off? Sorry enough that they'll want to take care of you? No one's filming— this isn't a story, this is real life, and you've hurt someone. And you keep saying it's not your fault. But what if it is? What if she's right and you're self-absorbed and right now you're overreacting. I'll hurt myself, not out of that same self-hatred, but in an attempt to draw myself to the point of pain. Oh, you're going to hurt yourself? You're not a damsel in distress. This is embarrassing. Nobody finds a sad person romantic or attractive. Why can't you just move on and do better?
It's kind of awful and I can't control it, just like I can't control the convulsions of my sobbing, or the way my knees and fingers tremble, lungs seize, even when my brain is flat and calm.
But I've gotten a lot better at leaving the bathroom stall and splashing my face with water and pretending everything is fine. I don't know if this is the right way to go about things, but I don't know how to talk about it—what if I just get angry and defensive again? In pre-school, I told a kid his drawing was ugly (it was, but mine wasn't much better). He started crying, but I refused to apologize and ended up in time-out crying and ignoring everyone while they went out for recess. My friend tried to tell me that if I calmed down and said sorry, I could come out of time out, but I felt betrayed and turned away.
The truth is, it was horrifying to see the effect my words had on another person, and I didn't want to admit that I'd been the cause of that distress. If I admitted that, then I wouldn't know where to go next. An apology wasn't enough. I'd carry the memory of that responsibility forever and I'd associate it closely with who I was. I might behave differently, but it didn't matter, right? Since deep down, all I was doing was counteracting my inherent personality.
Obviously, I'm projecting. I don't know how much of this can really be mapped onto an event remembered and re-remembered so many times that it's no doubt bastardized in some way. I never apologized and I always felt bad about it, all the way up to high school.
Did I really hurt my sister like that? I don't even know where to begin being different. I am going to do it, obviously. I can't just keep going on the way I'm going. But I seem to believe that, even if I change outwardly, it's only really a façade. I'm not a naturally considerate person. When I'm in a rush or panicked (or excited), and I don't have the energy to maintain my attention, I stop being a nice person. I stop letting cars pull in front of me, I stop opening doors for people, I can't bring it in me to compliment others or to care what they have to say, to care about their days. I talk too much about myself, I say weird things and I'm too sad. It's kind of scary.
Really, I don't know what to do about it. I try and that's definitely worth something— I don't hate myself. It's possible to heal and I know that. I wish I had some way to stop things from hurting so much. To stop believing certain things about myself, to stop being so preoccupied with being good in some way. People love me and I love people too. Which is exactly why I don't want to hurt them. To hurt them hurts me too. "My heart shrinks." My mom was clutching at her chest where she stood in the kitchen door.
My grandma told my mom that she was going to have a hard time with me, lol. But that wasn't true, because my mom generally had an easy time with me through my childhood, despite how I remember it. It was really only in middle school and in toddler-hood that I caused issues. But even in high school—although sometimes I lapsed back into anger and lashing out, although I missed school—I was a good kid. They learned to trust me again pretty quickly and I never caused issues, did well in school, participated in activities. Made them proud. Made them feel, probably, like it was worth the effort—if that sort of thing even mattered to them.
I just don't want them (mostly my mom, lol—I don't know if it really occurs to my dad) to worry about me. Of course, I can't really prevent that completely, but I can do my best. I will be fine. I actually do believe that—I am going to be fine. People keep telling me that, and I'd get frustrated back when I was depressed, because how was I supposed to be okay when I couldn't control myself? Lancelot said he thought I'd eventually grow up to be a very well-adjusted adult. I remember feeling like, if that was true, then none of this pain would feel real or justified. The only narrative progression that seemed respectable and legitimate was a downward one.
Someone tell me it wasn't my fault. Somehow this entry turned into an episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, LOL.
I'm really not upset or anything—I'm just thinking. In an odd way, this entry is sort of a kindness to myself. I'm not trying to judge or anything, just trying to document as objectively as I can. And let myself know that things really are okay. I am happy and excited, even if I am also incredibly anxious about the future. No matter what, everything is going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine. :)
Somehow, a kid needs to know that too. But I suppose that's not my job. My job is to teach them English and help them have fun doing it. To avoid letting them rely too much on my opinions and to instead help them find their own sense of motivation, something like I had as a kid, something that did and continues to make the process of learning fun and oddly cathartic. If they can smile and keep smiling—
I can't really prevent the sort of pain I went through. And I can't fix my past (unfortunately). But maybe I do something sort of good. They'll probably forget me soon enough, which honestly, I hope they do. I am very scared of being a bad teacher. Of not being able to relate to them because of the massive age difference. Of not knowing how to handle their distress, since I never really learned how to handle my own either...
I don't know right now. But I can learn. It might not be natural, but not everything has to come naturally and not everything is easy. I might've been born fixed in place, but I can find a way to forgive myself every time I make a mistake, even if it's harder for me than it's supposed to be. I can slide backwards into my self-hatred, because I'll still be able to move forward again after a bit. I've done it several times already—and each time, I get better at it, I move a little closer to being the sort of content that I've always wanted.
Oh. Also, I didn't really do it alone. I had a lot of help this whole time. And I can be helpful to others as well. Make everyone's lives a bit better? Ugh, this is so cheesy and stupid. I just wish I could share hope with other people. So stupid lol. Ok well I have to pee.
It's gonna be okay. :) Haha ok bye. I'm done being stupid lmaooo
Just realized the title of this entry is kind of like that quote from A Serious Man (it's best represented, imo, by the movie trailer, which is SUPER anxiety-inducing but also rlly good lmao. Probably my favorite trailer ever).
Providing developers and businesses with a reliable, easy-to-use cloud computing platform of virtual servers (Droplets), object storage ( Spaces), and more.