In kindergarten I was told I was smart. I learned what it felt like to be exceptional.
In first grade, I got third place in the school spelling bee. I learned that there is always someone more so.
In second grade I was told I had a college reading level. I learned that being “mature for your age” was something invaluable.
In third grade they took me into the GATE program. I learned the world was split up in three tiers.
In fourth grade I joined the school’s new theatre program. I learned how to stick to a script.
In fifth grade, I was the girl people learned to cheat off of. I learned that I was just a character in the grand scheme of the world.
And then, I was sent to middle school.
In sixth grade, I took all honors classes and got straight A’s. I learned that continuity is something people like.
In seventh grade, I read every book I got my hands on. I wrote stories that made my teachers and peers cry. I learned how to control the emotions of an audience. I learned how to use it for good.
By eighth grade, I had joined Student Council and lead a team on big projects. I learned how to direct, how to lead. I also learned when to let go.
I split myself into different versions, different people, to make sure that whoever I was with, whichever world I joined, I stuck to the script I was handed. And going into high school, that was still the plan.
But on the third day of freshman year, all scripts were snatched and I was told to figure it out.
All of a sudden, my friend group crumbled. The advanced classes I excelled at without effort became my biggest burden. The people I loved and who loved me lost their scripts too, and we didn’t know how we knew each other anymore.
Reading didn’t make me feel the same. Writing made me feel exposed. And joining the student council or the academic competitions made me feel lost and out of place. Because it wasn’t about filling your role anymore. It was about taking the one you thought you deserved, and making sure that everyone watched you do it.
I only had one problem with that. I had never thought to challenge a notion that I deserved…well, anything more.
So Freshman year, I floated in that feeling. I floated in not deserving much and keeping my head down, keeping my group small. I soaked up the feeling of being non-exceptional.
Sophomore year, I made new friends, on accident. They led me back to theatre. I learned how to stick to a script in a different way. I learned the script was an outline, and that we’re meant to fill in the blanks. I found a new place, a new adopted sense of identity.
Junior year, I basked in aftermath. Yelling and screaming, fighting over who was more talented, more deserving, more right. Even though I didn’t truly think I was any of those. I learned that friends can be bad, that teachers can be worse, and that sometimes being alone is nice.
And now I’ve arrived here. I’ve changed my hair and gained some weight, I’ve altered my dreams thirteen times, and i’ve written and rewritten my future, even had a go at erasing the past.
At this exact moment, I’m floating in a standstill, all at once too aware of my existence and in denial of it.
It’s what I call the funk, and what my therapist calls a depressive episode. Who knows which one of us is completely right?
(Definitely my therapist, she’s the one with the degrees.)
But I’m here. And I’ve been here before. It’s home, It’s comfort.
But it’s lonely and dark, and it’s the realization that the place you thought was meant for you was one you unintentionally took from someone else.
I am all at once a fraud and a chosen one. And I don’t know how to handle being both.
So I write. I share. I do this in hopes that someone out there feels the same. In hopes that someone out there knows what I’m talking about. And in hopes that someone will tell me that these feelings…
That they’re all okay.
And that there’s way to make it easier, ways to ice the numb and relight the flame.A way to make my belly burn again. To make my eyes cry. To make my heart race. To feel something other than plain existence.
I have created a false reality of ambition and desire.
Rather, it was created for me.
And I’m trying to find a way out.