Dressed Like A Knight

As a timid thirteen-year-old, shuffling down the hallways of my middle school trying to melt into the crowd, I thought I would never be confident. If my socks were a different brand from my shoes, I would spend the entire day trying to keep my feet out of sight. In the gym locker room, I was terrified of someone seeing me and making fun of my bra or something, so I pulled my shirt on so quickly that I twisted my neck and had to see a chiropractor about it. Day-to-day conversations were torture. At summer camps, I would avoid eye contact and sit on the corner of my bed, journaling about feeling left-out and abandoned.

The other day, after French class, I realized once again how much confidence I’ve gained. See, I had to recite a poem, so I dressed up as a knight for extra credit. After I finished, I thought, hey, why don’t I just wear this the rest of the day? So I did. I walked the hallways of my high school dressed up as a knight (or rather, a cross between a knight and a Roman soldier, because my costume did not match). I got strange looks. People asked me about it. But I felt amazing. Why? Because it was the culmination of my confidence. It made me smile that the girl who couldn’t even wear Nike socks with Adidas shoes was now dressed up in a child-sized knight helmet.

To all you timid thirteen-year-olds out there: don’t lose hope. You won’t be afraid forever.

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Regressing

Around middle school, I went through a “too cool for you” phase. Everything remotely childish, or pertaining to childhood, was shunned, ignoring the fact that I threw tantrums and acted like a kid trapped inside a preteen body. I wanted to go out and be wild. I wanted to do things my own, independent way. I swore just to be cool, bought clothes exclusively from teen stores, and bragged about the fact that I was “only two years away from high school.” In my own eyes, I was twelve going on twenty. I thought my older teenage years would be even better. I’d have a hot boyfriend, a flat stomach, and a driver’s license–maybe even my own car. My life was supposed to be a sexier, wilder version of High School Musical. I fixated on that future and looked forward every single day.

Now that I’m actually approaching adulthood, I feel like I’ve actually regressed. I wondered this the other day while throwing a sticky hand at the ceiling (and contemplating buying 144 more). I don’t give a shit about being “cool” anymore. I wear hand-me-down tee shirts and the same pair of tattered Converse every day. I sleep with stuffed animals and a cartoon frog blanket. I eat cheese balls straight from the bag. Freud would probably call this regression. A defense mechanism to shield myself from the nearing responsibilities of adulthood. A form of denial. But really, is this what it’s like to be an adult? Playing with sticky hands and eating cheese balls? I’m content with that right now, but I’m worried that once I become an adult, I’ll have to abandon all that and become my (now non-existent) twelve-year-old fantasy. I don’t want that. I kind of just want to be a kid again so I wouldn’t have to face all this looming reality.

 

 

 

Before The Sun Goes Down

We live in a very divisive world, and Christians, like the rest of the human race, are not immune to its heavy influence. I am seeing fellow believers pitted against each other by politics, science, and lifestyle choices. One voted for Bernie, the other for Cruz. One believes in evolution, the other is a literal seven-day creationist. I am seeing lovers of Christ ripping each other to shreds over homeschooling, breastfeeding, exercise, cremation, clothing, and even Harry Potter.

Stop and listen to me. Aren’t we all sinners? Was Jesus not nailed to a cross, bleeding, for our transgressions? Do we not pray to the same Lord? Do we not see the same beautiful sky every night before we go to sleep? Take a deep breath. Put down your fists. Look at that beautiful sky, and do not be angry when the sun disappears from it tonight.

Ephesians 4:26

Failure & Self-Respect Speech

Today, I delivered a speech to over 2,000 high school students. Several requested it in a written format, and I’m happy to provide it. Here is the transcript. ❤

My name is Abigail, but when I was a freshman, I was just “A.” That A – that single letter – was everything to me. I didn’t see myself as a person as much as I saw myself as a walking report card.

I had lofty aspirations. I wanted to go to the nation’s most prestigious writing school, study English, and become a bestselling novelist. So I worked hard and held myself to a high standard. That healthy motivation, however, quickly spiraled into an obsession with perfection. Seeing anything less than one hundred percent was despicable. If I got a perfect score, I’d berate myself for missing the bonus point. There was always something to criticize, something that would make me raise the bar even higher, into the realm of the unattainable.

I got my wish. I had A’s, and I appeared successful and studious. But I’d completely lost sight of why I was driving myself so harshly in the first place. I wanted to go to college and pursue my dreams, because I wanted to be satisfied and happy. But I wasn’t. It took a lot of time to realize that, and to get to a more peaceful state of mind.

I mention my freshman year because it is what motivates me to inspire all of you. A’s, B’s, and F’s are just letters. Standards to which we adhere and work towards, but not to shackle our identities to. How can one letter define who you are? You have years and years of stories behind you. You aren’t a letter, or even a sentence. You’re a novel.

And just as we treat books with respect – you know, by not dog-earing the pages or defacing them – be kind to yourselves, as wonderful novels, by setting goals that you can actually achieve. Find peace by understanding that failure isn’t the end of the world. Failure is how we learn. It’s okay. It really is.

This isn’t a call to not try. You have to try in life, you have to make an effort and work hard.  This is a call to acceptance. This is a call to love yourself not for what you achieve, not for what you earn—but for who you are. And if you don’t know who you are yet, that’s okay, really. Just let me start you off with something, and I hope you remember this every single time you feel like insulting yourself or treating yourself harshly.
You are loved.
You are worth it.
You are enough – failures and all.

Thank you.

September, Personified

Part nine! I skipped around, and I accidentally titled this post wrong originally.

Appearance: September chooses to wear fashion from the early 1900s. She looks like a girl brought to life right out of a storybook.She refuses to dress like the rest of her “tasteless generation” as she would put it. September always appears somewhat lost in thought, but in a different sense than her dreamy older sister, April. April’s eyes wander around with wonder, while September appears like she’s staring deeply into something. Her gaze is distant and glazed-over, but fixed.

Personality: September is a wonderer, not a wanderer. She does not like to leave her room (a three-walled library filled with Victorian-era novels) or her front porch with a beautiful mountain view. She turns up her nose at the term “dreamer” or “free spirit.” September has a very intense mind, and she constantly ponders things, even things that seem so simple to others. September is also a snob. She’s impossible to please, and is always internally scoffing at “everyone else.” To others, she seems a bit pompous. In conversation, September is muted, sarcastic, and somewhat humorless. September just doesn’t value laughter and humor like everyone else. Her emotions are usually faint and unobtrusive. She’s almost always even-keel.

Wants: September wants to know “why” all the time.She rolls her eyes at people who take things at face value. For September, it’s untrue until she can find a reason why it should be true. September would like to live in a proper world. She rejects wild and raucous behavior, and hopes that one day everybody will go back to acting ladylike and gentlemanly. Then again, she has a sort of quiet pleasure in looking down on others and feeling like the only sensible girl in the world.

Likes: September enjoys the finer things in life, like old books, aged wine, and flawless cursive. She spends the most of her time reading. September taught herself to read at a young age, and has never abandoned books since. Of course, she will only read books published before 1960, and in hardback. She finds amusement in criticizing everyone and everything that doesn’t align with her opinion of good taste.

Fears: September is afraid of being forced to abandon her classic way of life. The thought of wearing skinny jeans and carrying around a smartphone makes her cringe. She wants everything to be “just so” and can become obsessed with even minor details.Being trashy or tasteless is abhorrent to her, so if she thinks she’s being that way, she will obsess over her mistakes until she returns to her refined way of life. September is afraid of losing her deep thinking and focused mind, instead becoming a vapid party animal. September needs to be ladylike, proper, and meaningful.

Lessons she needs to learn: You aren’t better than everyone else. It’s okay to not understand something. People who are different from you are not worse. Not everything can be the way you want it to be. You will have to learn to be accepting of lifestyles other than your own. Sometimes you’ll have to be content with what you’re given.

May, Personified

Appearance: May is a joyful girl, and it shows.  She wears bright colors or sundresses–or bright-colored sundresses. May is the human embodiment of an exclamation point. She does not always dress eccentrically, like her sister April, but she appears carefree even so.

Personality: May is an absolute joy to be around. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her charm is irresistible, in a completely genuine way. May doesn’t try to be appealing; it just happens. May doesn’t “try” to be anything. She just exists, in a simplicity that some of her more anxious sisters crave. To an outsider, May appears like she’s never been sad in her life. This can be both a strength and a fault. Her optimism and radiance are depended on, but it can be a turn-off. Some people say that May is simply “too happy” to be around at all. May does not even realize the impression she may be giving to others. She’s caught up in herself–completely self-absorbed in the least melancholy way possible. May is truly expressive. When she’s happy–which is most of the time–she feels unexplainable energy running through her. She is prone to overexcitement and can even appear manic with her steady stream of enthusiastic rambling. When she is feeding off the momentum of a pleasant situation, her enthusiasm builds, and she becomes intoxicated with joy.

Wants: May wants to be a child forever. She loves feeling carefree and full of life. Many people have told her that she needs to grow up, but May pays no mind. If she feels like wearing a yellow sundress at a funeral, she’ll wear it. People have even called her uncompassionate because of this. May doesn’t mean it, though. She wants other people to be happy, too. She thrives on the approval of her friends and family.

Likes: May likes all things exciting. If she thinks it will make her feel alive, she’ll jump for it. She feeds off the momentum created by being with her friends and family, and will do outlandish things to keep it going. May enjoys being outside, on playgrounds, or anywhere with friends. While she would do fine at raves and concerts, that isn’t her preferred area of play. May prefers places where she can think clearly; her mind can’t run wild when she can’t even hear her thoughts.

Fears: May is afraid of herself. She does not want to journal, write about her life, think about her past, or pay attention to her inner voice. In her eyes, doing those things would drain the life out of her and make her “just another one of the cardboard people.” By that she means the people who hate their 9-to-5 jobs, complain all the time, and hate waking up in the morning. May doesn’t want to slow down, because she can’t stand the thought of losing her spark. She’d rather die tomorrow than know that the rest of her life will wilt away with age and misery. May annoys people when she refuses to think about anything other than happy fantasy. She doesn’t follow the news and doesn’t even take care of herself. As a child, when she got a cut, she would shrug it off and keep playing. Taking care of herself would mean acknowledging that something was wrong in the first place.

Lessons she needs to learn: Life’s not always good. Sometimes you must sacrifice your desires to benefit someone else. It is healthy and enriching to think deeply about who you were and who you are now. People do not always want to hear about how great things are; many actually find this annoying. You have to grow up eventually.

I’m Not Ready

In my posts several months ago, I mentioned feeling carefree and unconcerned about the future, like I was living in a bubble while everyone around me scrambled for footing in life. Last night, that finally ended. Reality suddenly overtook me.

This isn’t freshman year, where young teens dreamily speculate about where they want to go to college. It’s not fantasy anymore. This is reality. We’re all going to be applying to colleges in the fall–just a matter of months. In less than a year-and-a-half, I’ll be moving into the dorms, ripping myself away from everyone I love and everything I know.

How? How am I going to be an adult? Peanut butter sandwiches and packages of instant mac & cheese are at the far reaches of my cooking abilities. I take three suitcases for what a normal adult could pack into one. I’m not completely incompetent; I truly believe that if I was thrust into my own apartment, I’d be able to survive. I’m just terribly clumsy at just about everything. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see someone who should be taking SATs. I see the twelve-year-old me who used to gossip about which One Direction member was the hottest, the seventh grader who dreamed of getting to buy unlimited sparkle-studded skinny jeans at Justice. Since when am I just months away from being on my own?

Part of me would rather just go back to those horrible middle school years. I’d rather be insecure about my neon lunchbox and going to bed at 9 PM. I’m not ready to be an adult. I’ve finally gotten settled in to a happy state of being, but, so typical of life, everything has to change.

I Don’t Want To Die

Every new day is a new opportunity to be killed somehow. Life itself is deadly. Here we are, all of us, living, not knowing how we’re going to die, but knowing that we will. People will always say, “You’re not going to die that way; it’s statistically unlikely.” But there’s always one person, and that one person thought the same thing. Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them.

It scares me, when there’s death at every turn. I don’t want to die. More specifically, I don’t want my loved ones to hurt if I die. If I were to die without affecting anyone, that would be unfortunate; I really love living, but there’s always heaven. However, I know that I’ll affect people. That’s what breaks me up; knowing that the people who care about me would be crying. I don’t want anyone to cry.

I just don’t want to die, but life is just a conveyor belt towards the sharp teeth of death. All we can do is enjoy the ride there. That’s what counts.

April, Personified

Part four.

Appearance: April loves wearing light, airy, bohemian clothing. She strives to appear on the outside as who she is on the inside–gentle and carefree. TO an outsider, April may look as though she is about to float away on a dream; her eyes are soft and wandering. She’s pursued by men far and wide for her unique beauty, but she’s too busy doing other things to really notice.

Personality: April is a gentle and affectionate girl. If you cry, she will be there for you with tissues. Although uncomfortable with emotions other than her own, April genuinely wants to help other people. Most of the time, April is very inconsistent. She rarely finishes tasks given to her, and when she does, it takes her twice the time needed to complete it. But when it comes to helping friends and family, April will never give in to her capricious nature. In her spare time, April loves being outside, much like her sister March. Unlike March, however, April is a much lighter person. She is more affectionate and expressive, and doesn’t carry the weighty sense of realism that her older sister does. April is a bit shy. She doesn’t like initiating contact, especially with people she does not know. When surrounded by strangers, April will slip away, like a warm breeze through an open door. People won’t notice she’s gone until they look out the window and see her at the edge of a meadow, braiding flowers into her hair. In fact, April could be likened to a flower. She is delicately beautiful. The more you get to know her and water your relationship with her, the more she blooms.

Wants: April seeks beauty and love above all things. She wants to roam the world, drinking in all the wonder that lies before her. Thankfully, April is able to see beauty in almost everything. A broken cup is not trash to her; it is a precious thing meant to be fixed. A simple sunset is captivating. April also needs affection and attention, but she is picky. An acquaintance’s flattery will never do. She needs deep love; she needs to be cherished by the ones she herself cherishes. Without that, she wilts. Unfortunately, she can come across as a bit needy.

Likes: April loves nature, especially flowers. She never goes anywhere without wearing at least one. If she had the dedication and willpower, she would own a garden stretching at least an acre. She also enjoys stories. Sometimes she reads books, and occasionally writes her own poems. However, it’s much more pleasant for her to simply think about things. Her mind wanders too much for her to focus on writing a novel.

Fears: April is afraid that her friends and family will abandon her and leave her loveless. It is not being alone that terrifies her–it is feeling alone. The state of solitude does not bother April; in fact, most of the time she is not even around her loved ones. It is the feeling of being cut off, of having nobody to turn to or come home to, that makes her feel empty. She needs affirmation that her relationships are going to be okay. At her worst, April can become fixated on whether or not people care about her, and if she will end up feeling lost. Her mind can convince her into thinking that things actually are as bad as they seem. Then she flies into a tailspin of “what-ifs” and stretched assumptions. Her emotions will take hold of her.

Lessons she needs to learn: Just because you feel a certain way does not mean that things actually are that way. Sometimes you have to find the tenacity to do tasks you don’t want to do. When doubts start to fill your mind, realize that they’re irrational. Something small that goes wrong does not mean that your worst fears are coming true.

How Are You?

When you run in to an acquaintance at the grocery store, you smile and ask, “Hey, how are you?” They reply, “Good, you?” Then you smile, nod, reply with the same thing, and keep on walking. The whole exchange takes about two minutes, at most. It’s obligatory and predictable.

But what would happen if your acquaintance replied, “Horrible. My life is falling apart. How are you doing?” It would be jarring, awkward, a massive rip through the curtain of social expectations, the curtain of lies behind which we hide when we aren’t doing well. Generally, it’s not acceptable to be honest when you’re asked how you’re doing. It’s always a monotone “good,” or, if things are really falling apart, a cheerfully sung, “hanging in there.” It’s implied that you put on a happy face and smile for the camera. But technically your acquaintance wouldn’t be doing anything wrong if they told you their life sucked. They’re being honest in a society that doesn’t value honesty. You asked the question, after all. If you’re bothered, that’s on you.

Don’t ask a question if you don’t care. Why ask someone how they are if you aren’t genuinely interested in their well-being? Pretending to care just for the sake of appropriateness isn’t helping anyone; in fact, it’s just being unfair. You’re giving the impression that you care, when you don’t. You’re lying.