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I have been intimidated my whole life. When I was five years old, I screamed bloody murder whenever our kittens crossed my path. A running joke my uncle loves to tell to embarrass me involves me climbing up my father as quickly as possible in order to get away from Lefty, one of my uncle's very sweet dogs. Besides being deathly afraid of domesticated animals, I was too often embarrassed by someone laughing at me. Of course, I appreciated this reaction if I was purposely being humorous, but as soon as someone laughed at me, -not even as a mean gesture- for doing something they thought was funny but I did not, tears would well up in my eyes, my cheeks would turn red, and I would run out of the room. In third grade, I accidentally backed my bike up into a kid and was told off by the principle who just so happened to be in the parking lot at the time. Although I had hardly done anything wrong and the kid was perfectly okay, I have not stopped feeling embarrassed about it even to this day. I have always loved talking to my teachers and having a good relationship with them. But as soon as I cause them to have even a fraction of disappointment in me, I try to apologize for whatever I did to make them feel badly towards me, regardless of the fact that whatever I did, I may not even believe to be wrong. You could call me a "people pleaser," always trying so hard to make sure everyone is comfortable. It has happened on multiple occasions, middle school holding most of these incidents. I once talked back to a teacher who proceeded to get very close to my face and hiss his disappointment directly into my pores. I was thirteen, had known this teacher for three years, had a great relationship with him, but after one slip of the tongue on my part, I felt as though all that time we had spent being on good terms with one another was thrown out the window. I could not stop thinking about it for days and later wrote him a letter explaining that I was sorry and that what I had said was very disrespectful and completely unacceptable. I remember specifically the last sentence I wrote to him, "Please do not come talk to me about this after you read this, I get very intimidated by adults in this type of situation; that is the reason this is written and not spoken to you."
Intimidated. That was the word I chose.
I have freaked out about what people may think about me my whole life. You could say one of my greatest fears was, and still may be, that someone will get a mistaken idea about me and think that I am a horrible or ignorant person. Judgement. I am terrified of being judged. Who isn't? People have always fought hard to "be normal." At the same time, however, they have broken their backs trying to stand out amongst the crowd; to be noticed is what people truly want. But not noticed because of bad judgements, but for greatness. People live their lives figuring it out, going to college, building and taking pride in their career, making friends and having support to cheer them on. The difference between me and these people creating a life and a name for themselves is simple- fear. These people are able to look past "being normal" and act on what they believe to be best for themselves, not what will please others. For too long, I have held a different outlook. I am not simply nervous about an interview or not being accepted to the college of my choice. It is not as manageable as that. I feel true, debilitating, miserable, despair when I think about being around people who have the chance to judge me. It halted my life, causing me to not partake in simple activities. Unlike how I have overcome (or outgrown) my completely irrational fear of animals, I have spent almost my entire life with an irrational fear of being judged. To cope, I began wearing big black boots, leather jackets, and pretty much always donned a pissed off expression whether it was conscious or not. Maybe this would make others believe I was confident and didn't care what they would have to say about me. Truly, I wanted to intimidate those who intimidated me.
So the real question is: Why do I hold such delirious thoughts? What about me or has happened to me that has caused me to be so incredibly panicked?
It all comes down to one very crucial mistaken idea. Believing one thing about myself which proves later not to be true. This part of me that I struggled to accept was causing me to judge myself much harder than any outsider ever has in my life. It is absolutely terrifying to find out something about yourself that you only ever believed to happen to other people. I believed I knew who I was, but as I matured, I came in touch with new emotions that told me I was wrong. (A textbook example of cognitive dissonance, as my therapist would say). I've been wrong my whole life. I've been living not only with a mistaken idea, but ultimately a mistaken identity. I was not who I thought I was; I will never be able to be who I thought I was.
I was not Teresa, the "normal girl" who, as a "normal girl," was attracted to men. No matter how hard I tried or how many boyfriends I had.
I am Teresa, the "not normal girl" who, as a "not normal girl," is attracted to women.
It is a very cliched story. A confused kid, always feeling that they were "different", turns out to be gay. I know, what a shocker.
But it has not just been a cliched story for me. Its real. Its a shocking wake-up to reality. It has been the hardest obstacle I have ever had to overcome in my life. I was no longer "normal." I did not fit into my own life. The reason I have always been so irrationally intimidated is I have always felt different from the people I knew, the people who raised me, the people who taught me right from wrong. I wanted to make sure I was on their good side all the time, because truly, I knew that I was different from them in some way, I did not relate with them in the same way others seemed to. I was so scared of losing those I loved, I began to no longer voluntarily be around them, in case they figured out I was different. And as I isolated more and more, rarely hung out with friends, became comfortable with just myself, the more and more I began to feel that everybody wanted me to be gone anyway. That I wasn't any fun to be around anymore. Life became intimidating. The only coping mechanism to my newly realized differences that I could come up with was to hate myself for being who I really was. For despising my uncontrollable feelings. For being so mad at myself for not being able to accept my differences out of pure fear of being judged and rejected. I held a deep hatred toward myself for years.
I chose not to be myself. I never allowed anyone to know me because I've been so afraid. I have never been what I thought to be "normal." I am afraid of people who only believe there to be one "normal." But guess what? Ever since I came to this realization about myself, I have been more me than I have ever been in my seventeen years. I am slowly starting to feel like I really might just be "normal," a true normality that actually isn't there. "Normal" means being different. Because we know we all are. We take pride in it every single day.
And now I share my difference. And hopefully everyone will see, as I was never able to, that my difference isn't really a difference at all.
I have been intimidated. Past tense.