CC image courtesy of Flickr, Intangible Arts.
It’s funny, isn’t it, when we hear something we’ve never heard before, and yet immediately, it strikes a chord, and we go, “Yes! That’s IT!” I just had one such experience. I was out shopping today with my friend, Rowena, and we stopped in at Maurice’s, as we always must, when we’re shopping near one. I saw a shirt that said, “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea.” As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed it. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking the last couple years, as I work on becoming more myself. Of not being afraid anymore. Of dying my hair, and piercing my ears, and wearing my black lipstick, etc., etc.
I remember many, many times when I looked in the mirror, and had no idea who it was staring back at me.
I knew who it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be me. But it wasn’t. I never really matched the part that I played for so long. And after a while, I completely lost who I actually was. As a kid, I was a rather fearless, adventurous tomboy. I often thought about joining the Navy, like my dad had. I was inquisitive, liked to figure out ideas by way of arguing (I deconstruct an idea, and then build it back up- much like an engineer takes apart a clock to understand how it ticks), and I was usually allowed. But after my family joined ATI, that all stopped. I was expected to be the meek and quiet, obedient lady. I was expected to have long hair, dress “modestly” (read…”baggy” and “frumpy”), wear no makeup, accept everything I was told as truth, stay at home until I married, have a dozen children and homeschool them all. That never appealed to me. And yet, it was supposed to. So I told myself it did.
ATI (the fundamentalist cult my family was in for 9 years) basically taught us that we were supposed to be everyone’s cup of tea. That with a bright smile, navy and white clothes, and the right attitude, we could win over anyone. Bill Gothard (the cult’s founder and leader) loved to tell all of us “apprenticeship students” stories of ATI students boarding planes in their navy and white with a good smile, and being randomly upgraded to first class. About ATI students who worked so hard for an employer, they were given a high paying job that normally required a college degree, without having a college degree. He loved to talk about the very rare exceptions to the rule, and tell us that, with the right attitude and dress and actions, everyone would love us, respect us, and the world would be open to us as we made money and gained the ear of heads of state.It took me years to realize what a complete joke that was. So I tried, so hard, to be everyone’s cup of tea. To gain everyone’s respect and admiration. I failed miserably, of course. I was labeled a rebel and a temptress at my fundamentalist church. Apparently, mothers actually warned their sons about me. Funny thing was, I really wasn’t that interested in guys in general until I was in my twenties. But no matter how hard I tried, I never really fit into their little mold of who I should be. As much as I often functioned as an ISTJ, I was still an INTJ. As much as I tried to function as a neurotypical, I was still Autistic (though I didn’t get my diagnosis until the age of 32). As much as I tried to content myself with not going to college and with the idea of being a stay-at-home homeschool mom to goodness knows how many kids, it never worked. It just wasn’t who I was.
But who I was, was bad.
And to be concealed and denied and buried and crucified as much as possible.
And so I forgot. For a very long time, I completely lost sight of who I was. After I got out of ATI, bits and pieces came back. My INTJ was eventually coaxed out of hiding. I started to wear makeup and clothes that, while still extremely modest by most standards, would be considered scandalous by ATI standards. I listened to secular music (GASP). I lived alone. I got a college degree, and then a graduate degree. I even started teaching college. When I finally read the Divergent trilogy and was reminded of who I was, I immediately started changing how I dressed and did my makeup. I got contacts, later, I got a much edgier haircut and even dyed it black and purple. I got more ear piercings, and planned a nose piercing and tattoos (which have yet to be gotten). As I looked in the mirror, more and more, I saw myself looking back at me. I was coming out of hiding. Sure, some people may look at my hair and makeup and piercings and clothes (which seriously, are still super modest by most standards), and make judgments about my character, based on that. Some may decide they don’t like me. And some may look at my departure from Christianity and decide I simply wanted to live my own life my way, and not by God’s rules. That I wanted to live my life governed by the “pleasures of this world.” They can judge all they like. It’s not true, not by a long shot. There’s way more to it than that.
But it’s okay if some people judge. It’s okay if people decide they don’t like me anymore. Or decide that I make them sad, or anything else. At the end of the day, I really would rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. Because at least if I’m someone’s shot of whiskey, I’m being myself.
I’m not watering myself down and forcing myself into a mold, and wearing a mask.
I’m not playing a part. I’m being, well, me. Does it hurt to be rejected? Yeah, sometimes. But in the long run, I’ll be far more satisfied with my life, and far more at peace, if I’m open and honest. If I quit playing a part. At the end of the day, I can respect who I am. And I have the support of my parents, who know pretty much everything there is to know. While they may not agree with me on everything, they do absolutely respect me, support me, and they’re okay with where I am in life. I have many others, too.
People who have known me for a long time have witnessed this transformation. Some have been surprised, some haven’t. Most recognize I’m much more at peace with myself than I ever was before. And I am. I’m done being everyone’s cup of tea. I’m going to be myself. Sure, it takes courage, but hey. That’s what life is all about. Being brave, and not letting fear rule your life. Could I really call myself “Dauntless” if I was letting my fear of others rule my life? Nope. So I’m going to be brave and be myself. Otherwise, life is just a really sad exercise in jumping through hoops, toeing the line, and making sure all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “T’s” crossed. And that’s just a shame.