Are there things which were difficult for you when you were younger that have remained difficult?
As a child, I was reticent and not confident about my abilities on any front. When I was 11, my parents enrolled my siblings and me on a swim team. I was never competitive and the team ultimately dropped my sister and me from the team because we were “too slow”, but offered to keep my brother on the team. In anger, my mother signed us up for a different swim team that did not have pretentions of greatness of individuals or the team as a whole, but the original failure to be a faster swimmer stayed with me as just one of several personal faults. I always felt I needed to be perfect in every way, but I don’t now know whose measure of perfection I was trying to satisfy.
While I was one of the better students in elementary and high school, I often felt like a failure – that I could have done my schoolwork better and more imaginatively. In college, I was an average student who discovered I could not successfully complete Chem 101 on the block plan, and maybe not even on a semester plan at a different school, proving that my mother’s assertion that I could be anything I wanted to be was incorrect.
Even now, when I participate as a board member of a nonprofit, lead a project in the book arts group, or work on writing, making books, quilting, painting, drawing, learning Spanish, I feel insufficiently capable of performing well. My husband once said that he thought I joined and made commitments to some many boards and groups because I seek approval from others. I recently realized that I’m actually seeking approval from myself, and only rarely receiving it.
Difficult things that have gotten easier?
When I was a child, and through my college years, I was incredibly shy. Most of the time, I spent alone. Even at home, I was usually in my bedroom, reading the current book in which I was engrossed while the rest of my family watched nonsense on television. I was inordinately shy at the high school (which was 7th grade through 12th), I went to one dance at the school, during 8th grade. because a boy (who admitted he wanted to be my official boyfriend) had encouraged me to go. I danced one dance with the boy and then spent the rest of the evening hiding in the girls’ restroom, relieved when my father came to pick me up. I never attended another dance at school again, even prom – and the boy rapidly gave up on an exclusive relationship, much to my relief. In 8th grade, I tried out for the cheerleading squad; in front of the other girls and the gym teacher, I barely got into the routine I had worked hard to commit to memory, only to not remember it – I immediately gave up in disgrace. A few years later, in 9th grade when I was on the high school speech team I memorized a speech I had written for one of the competitive events; my turn came and I started my speech, then sputtered to a stop, asked if I could restart from the beginning and when granted that request could get no farther on my speech, again retreating in disgrace.
Sometime after college, something changed in me, ‘though I don’t know how or exactly when. I became comfortable talking with others, individually and in groups, speaking both off the cuff and more formally – I think I reached a place where I didn’t care what people think of me. I became an officer in the Legal Assistant’s associations in Utah and later in New Mexico. Since that time, I have needed people in my orbit, as friends, as confidants, as co-workers and co-participants in many activities. I have become known for my story telling about events throughout my life, much like my father. The on-going virus crisis has proven that I am no longer a shy loner; I mightily need unremitting contact with my many friends and others.