Some people, myself included, would say I have a generalized anxiety that causes me to allow myself to miss out on fun activities, social events, and vacations, and that this has also led to a general lack of self-confidence when it comes to such activities. I agree with that.
But one thing I haven't experienced in quite some time is the issue of female self-esteem. While I make self-deprecating jokes about my butt or beer gut, I usually don't really mean it. If I make a reference to my mustache or hairy chest, it's about 80% joking (I don't have a hairy chest although, being of German descent, I have noticed a 'stache in recent years). Sometimes I thumb through magazines in the check-out lane or peruse gossip columns online and feel an overall sense that women are too thin in Hollywood and that I'll never keep up. Even at my skinniest I was still over 100 pounds and, to be classified as anorexic, one must apparently aspire to weigh in the double digits.
Even during the horrible experience known as puberty and adolescence, my concern was never about how much I weighed. I never thought I was fat and I rarely gave any thought to clothes or boys until I was permanently placed in a normal, public high school in a smaller town outside Indianapolis when my father retired from active duty in the military. Suddenly a series of ideas I'd never once given thought seemed thrust upon me before I was really ready to consider them: hair, makeup, kissing, sex, dating, kissing with tongues, music, movies, pop culture.
I was a pretty shy kid, quiet, introverted, and fine with it. I didn't particularly care if I made friends from one Naval base to the next and was perfectly happy reading in my room on warm summer days. I guess I haven't changed all that much. Even though I'd been exposed to such things as romantic novels and fictional horror I wasn't interested in scary movies or boys. Even at fifteen my only experience kissing or fondling had been with a girl. I didn't consider myself to be a lesbian but I was most definitely not interested in doing the same thing with a boy.
In a freshman world history course I was mistakenly identified as a “good student” and paired up with another girl who had missed a month of school the previous semester due to, as she called it, “a cyst that burst on my ovary.” As it turned out, at the tender age of fourteen, she'd actually gotten pregnant and had been removed from school by her wealthy, overprotective grandmother to give birth and release the child to an adoptive family. Why, in this day and age no one considers any other options is still beyond me.
This young woman quickly became the reason I did anything for a year. Maybe it was to impress her, maybe because I felt far behind other kids my age (and especially her), maybe it was peer pressure. Whatever the reason, I made poor choices. I kissed a boy that I really didn't like; then kissed another one with tongue; I was sexually assaulted by the same boy because I “made him wait too long” to have sex; I tried cigarettes, alcohol, and pot; I lied to my parents and went to a 26 year-old man's apartment with this girl to drink and spend the night. Eventually we weren't friends any longer and she dropped out of high school to pursue the adopted child. Last I heard she got her daughter back from a loving, hard-working family with a good income and she was living off WIC and food stamps.
I don't believe that you can regret anything about your past because, in denying the choices you made, you're denying that the place you exist in life right now is what and where you want to be. I don't regret that I allowed myself to be taken in by an insecure, scared girl who wanted to see me in as much trouble as she'd been. I realize now that those choices led to who I am right now. I continued to make poor choices for years after that, getting arrested, being on home detention, ending up in juvenile with a girl who'd stabbed her pimp, being forced into psychiatric care and, eventually, having to make the choice between going into the military or going into the Girls' School until I turned 18. I chose the former.
I didn't get anything out of the Army but headahces and an other-than-honorable discharge thanks to a girl with a very vivid imagination and a weird personal vendetta against me. But I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn't ended up meeting her and having her falsely accuse me of coming on to her (I say, puh-lease. If I was going to hook up with a girl in the Army, it would certainly not have been her nasty ass). I probably would never have met Julie and worked for 8 years as her advocate and housemate. I wouldn't have met Jennifer, one of my closest friends for years and, by default, then met Kate. I would never have hung out with Liz whom I met through work, and had her force me to go to the clubs when she was 21. As a result I'd have never met Charlie, Cavan, adopted my cats or dogs, and so on and so forth.
Whether or not the life I lead is the one I'd choose if I could “do it all over again” I'm still pretty okay with the way things are right now. I have an opportunity to go to college full time at the moment, something I firmly believe I would have failed at terribly had I gone in the first 5 years out of high school; I have a great house in a nice neighborhood, and the opportunity to buy a home in a few months or move out of state if that's what we decide to do.
I don't know what the next few years will hold for me. I have no idea where we'll be or what we'll do in May of 2007 when the lease is up here, but I know for a fact that I don't believe in fate. What happens is at least 90% within my control. I am enjoying the low-key lifestyle I have, hanging out at home, taking classes, cooking dinner, working at the coffeeshop, and still being able to pay bills on time.
I know that some old friends and acquaintances may find me boring and often ask “What happened?” I just think I'm done “partying.” I'm almost 31 years old. I've partied till I passed out, partied till I puked, partied to that point that I had to stumble home in 4-inch heels, gone home with strangers, been kicked out of bars, gotten in fights with men, raved, absorbed more than my share of illegal substances, made out with women I didn't know, gotten lost, ended up in scary apartment buildings in the ghetto to try and find said-illegal substances, been at someone's place when there was heroin and crack.
And this is the stuff that I believe led me to be the semi-paranoid, “too safe” person that I am today. I'm not interested in getting pulled over and being charged with a DUI; I don't want to stay out until 4am in a dark, sweaty bar; I don't want to find myself in a confrontation with an angry drunk girl or guy who has decided they don't like my haircut (oh, it's happened). I realize this has made me into somewhat of a control freak, but for the time being I'm okay with that. I've overcome my irrational fears of the doctor and dentist, and vomiting. Now I need to work on being a passenger in someone else's car and getting on a plane.
It takes time and, perhaps, a little Xanax at first, but I think I can do it.