My teenage self was a better actor than my adult self. Somewhere over the years, I forgot how to stand proud, act confident and create huge, wind-proof hair. It is all starting to come back to me though. Well, minus the 80s hair, that can stay forgotten.
As a teenager, I was active. I was in the marching band, took a modeling class, taught dance classes to kids, dressed like Madonna, competed in beauty pageants, and cheered at basketball games, football games and competitions. I acted like I was good enough to fit in all the crowds. I mean I was the creative writing honor roll student-band geek-cheerleader who dressed weird after all. I was walking diversity at its best back then.
From the outside, I looked like a confident young girl. It was all an act though. Inside, I was just as insecure as any other girl. I wasn’t from a wealthy family so I didn’t have the coolest clothes. Some kids teased me, saying I dressed like Madonna. At the time, I didn’t even know who that was. But I pretended I did and figured it out later. Sure enough, I had some lace gloves and odd skirts that could have easily fit into an 80s Madonna MTV video. (Remember when MTV actually played videos?)
I participated in local pageants, where as one of my runner-up prizes, I won a Barbizon Modeling course. Of course, this was just some ‘deal’ where you got a few classes free with some promise to be the next Christy Brinkley. But I went and somehow my parents paid for the potential earnings. (I didn’t become a famous 5’2” model though. Huh. Go figure.)
As a “band geek,” I played the flute, French horn and trumpet. I was actually pretty decent at the flute (but very meh at the horn instruments) and wish I would have kept up with it. For years, I toted around that stickered flute case that I got in 6th grade. I always planned to play it later, another day, but it rarely happened. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I finally parted with it, giving it to a co-workers child to cherish. (I wonder if they still have it?)
My best friend and I (who are still friends to this day), cheered and taught dance classes. We were inseparable. We went to practices, games, and competitions in our matching cheer clothes. We taught ballet, tap and acrobats to small kids at the local studio in lieu of free lessons for ourselves. We wore crazy dance outfits during recitals that we of course thought were sexy and modern. We even had nearly identical cars by mere coincidence of our families’ choices for us. Many people called us twins and we were perfectly OK with that.
Through all of this, I learned to carry myself in confident ways. Well, as self-assured as a teenager could be. I look at the girl in these old snap shots and wonder, where did she go? I know I wasn’t really that confident, that comfortable, but geez, I sure look like I am. And boy, I sure did know how to make some big hair back then! I mean really! How did I get big hair under that band hat? Now THAT, has to be worth something right there alone. Doesn’t it?
Over the years though, I forgot that fake confidence. I forgot that model walk. I forgot how to wear acid wash miniskirts while balancing huge hair on heels. I forgot how to play my own music. I forgot how to do a back handspring. And I even forgot what it was like to sit in a parade (on the hood of my mom’s rusty Ford Escort station wagon) gracefully waving at the people who were surely wondering, “Don’t most festival queens ride on the back of fancy convertibles? Oh bless her heart for trying.” (This is a true story. I may even find a picture of this parade!)
With age and hard lessons, I forgot the freedom of youth and the lack of concern of what others might think, or at least the appearance of it. I started to fit into less groups and limited my interests. I began to care about my reputation and restrained my creativity into acceptable forms. I stopped dressing like I was in a Madonna video. I never tried out for another pageant or anything close because I thought it was kind of embarrassing to have always been the runner-up and never the queen. I even helped the ozone by cutting down my volume of Aqua Net use when my hair became lower and less of an impenetrable, unmovable shield.
With all those changes though, I was more vulnerable. I was more insecure. I was more dependent on what the world expected of me and less of what I wanted myself.
Years passed where I was a zombie. I worked jobs to pay the bills for things I was supposed to have. I put myself into debt to support the American way. I completed a college degree only to have to join the military because I couldn’t find a good paying job in my field of study.
There were mind numbing years of existence that resemble hazy blurs in my memory. I don’t know what I did or how I got through them, but I did. And it is probably not a vastly different story line than many other people out in the world today. But here’s the thing. I am waking up and remembering.
I am learning to love myself again and walk tall, even when I don’t feel that poised in my questionable outfit of the day. I am relearning a confident stride and holding my head high as I remind myself that I never needed the title of festival queen to feel accomplished anyway. I am starting to write again and not restraining my creativity. I am taking risks and trying new things. I am not letting failed attempts hold me back. Heck, I have even been practicing my acrobats. I can’t do a back handspring (though my high school bestie still can), but I can do a mean cartwheel and backbend, which ain’t too bad for a 44-year-old. (Can I get that slow dramatic clap like in the movies?)
Overall, I am remembering the youthful girl I almost lost. She was me then, and is still me now, with more wrinkles and weight of course. With some time, I will revive all the dreams and potential she had. I will resuscitate that confident spirit and passionate soul. It is only a matter of time, before I remember the me I should have become. It just may not include such huge hair, lace gloves, and miniskirts though. The 80s are over after all.
A few weeks ago, I saved this challenge link because I wanted to write something for it. This isn’t what I originally planned to write, but it is what I felt today. So, finally, here it is.