Le 40 is Le Terrifying and I Can’t Understand Why.

Y’all. Why am I so scurred about turning 40????

A bit of background: growing up, no age ever really scared me off. I ached to be 12. I fortycouldn’t wait to be 16. 21 was super cool. 25? Give me 5. And if you’ve read any of my past posts, you know about the wonder, amazement, and sheer beauty that 30 brought me. (There are too many posts to link about 30; just hit that search button, playa.) As the ages continued, I embraced each new year, grateful for the increase in wisdom and self-discovery, among other awesome things that came with getting older.

But why is 40 giving me all the terrors known to man? What is it about that number?

Oh, and the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” adage means nothing to me. I was born old and stressed out.  If anything, getting older has given me ample opportunities to age backwards. Meet your Melanin Benjamin Button, everyone. So why do I envision this new decade hiding behind a dark corner, flexing its long claws, ready to strike?

Here are some irrational, pre-40 fears:

  1. All my bones will fall apart.
  2. Someone will refer to me as middle-aged.
  3. My hormones will get further out of whack and someone will find me on the side of the road muttering unintelligibly to myself.

I said irrational, didn’t I?

In the past, like most kids, I always felt too young and dreamed of being older. And now…give me trips to the library during school-sanctioned summertime and rolling in the grass in the backyard without fear of ticks, please. Perhaps it’s that, the strange sense of losing youth, that’s bothering me. Even though I craved getting older, I also knew that the process would take time. Fast forward to now, where time is a giant clock that has “40” emblazoned on its surface, staring back at me with its arms folded and an impatient tapping of its foot. We have arrived.

In the grand scheme of things, rationally, I recognize that the age is really only a number. It’s relevant for tax, census, and records purposes. It doesn’t define me or create some sort of blueprint of what my life will become. I know, I know…

Here are some of my favorites who are turning 40 this year right along with me (or already have):

Anyway, I will continue to heave giant sighs and wonder what 40 will bring me. Meanwhile, you will tell me in the comments how you dealt with new ages and/or decades, won’t you? Because you love This Square Peg and want to comfort her somehow, right? Right? Riiiight?

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How to Adult.

adulting

Because let’s be honest: there was no real manual to prepare for adulting when we were kids, was there? Sure, our parents may have given us advice and even perhaps provided their own living example. But we were destroying playing Legos and watching Jem and the Holograms. We–I, for sure–weren’t paying attention. And then you turn 25 and you’re like…how many more nights do I have to eat peanut butter so I can have enough money to pay my rent this month?! (True story.) Here are five things I wish I had known (or listened to) in advance, but I’m glad I know now:

  1. Adults are just tall kids wearing grown-up clothes. Seriously, the behaviors we saw in classrooms and on playgrounds don’t change that drastically. Tantrums become manageable, attitudes can be hidden, etc. Timmy, now Tim, probably still wants to stick in a frog inside your T-shirt, but instead, he ignores you during the staff meeting. And let’s not get started on Janine and your ongoing issues with parking, personal space, and food in the office fridge. My point is that we may grow up, but not everything goes away. Cliques remain. Mean girls become mean ladies. That sort of thing. And I don’t excuse myself: the way I dealt with life as a 10 year-old versus now means I deal with it better, but trust, I still have my bratty ways. And a strong side eye.
  2. Credit cards are nothing but the work of the devil. My dear Daddy tried to warn me about them. I remember sitting in the car and staring placidly out of the window while he discussed the danger of relying on credit cards. I wasn’t listening. Le sigh. In college, I was offered an Faustian bargain: to get a free mobile phone, all I had to do was sign up for a credit card. Ooh, free phone! Got the phone, the card, and eventually, the bills. It was an interesting journey. I learned the hard way. But I learnt!
  3. Love isn’t a guarantee. Growing up, I saw how difficult things could sometimes be for my parents, who were raising four children while balancing all the things married life and the economy and other responsibilities demanded of them. The unsurprising result: I never imagined myself married. No visions of weddings or my own little children running around. It just seemed hard. I knew my parentsAngela Bower loved each other, but there were so many struggles. I was content imagining myself as a rich advertising executive with high heels and maybe a boyfriend, a la Angela Bower from Who’s the Boss? (Honestly.) But when I got older and recognized that love, despite its wrinkles and hardships, was still love and worth the fight (also seen through my parents’ example, among others), life taught me an interesting lesson: so what? In other words, me finally understanding and wanting love didn’t necessarily guarantee that I would find it or attain it. And so far, love remains elusive. Becoming an adult with adult comprehension was no automatic journey into a love of my own, a lesson that continues to morph before my eyes. But you know what I found? An abiding love for This Square Peg. I’ll take it.
  4.  Assume nothing. Along the adulting highway, I started to believe–really, assume–that folks would act right/make good decisions/not cut me off in traffic/so on because that’s what kind, good, compassionate people do in life: the right thing. Nooooooope. People are complicated creatures, including the person writing all of this. Assume. Nothing.
  5. Questions are really OK. Y’all. I’m about five months from entering a brand new decade in life and I still call my mom/bestie/sister/friends and pose a variety of questions about life, people, work, etc. My bottom line: adulting will never mean an exhaustive understanding of everything. We will still wonder; gaze in confusion; dissect; figure out or try to. And that’s OK. The complexities will continue. But that’s…adulting.

Yeah, I miss those days when I knew nothing about taxes and utility bills and struggle peanut butter and the list continues, but I wouldn’t trade those days for now. It’s nice to see the world through these adulting eyes…I think.

What’s one adulting lesson you wish you knew in advance (but are happy to know it regardless)? Share with your fellow tall kid in grown-up clothes, please…

Starring This Square Peg as Herself.

owlcreek1I was 11 years old, a quiet sixth-grader. That day, we embarked on a field trip to a place called Hemlock Overlook. The bus ride was animated, filled with the excited conversations of my fellow classmates. I silently observed the scenes passing us by and wondered just where we were headed. Field trips had always been fun for me: museums, the zoo. This place was unfamiliar to me and I was curious and anxious about what we would find.

The school bus pulled into a dense, wooded area. It seemed to be a giant park. It was a giant park. A giant park, as I came to learn, that was filled with a variety of physical fitness-inspired activities. Games. A zip line that I eyed warily and ultimately refused to climb. The whole thing was weird and stressful. On one hand, it was nice to hang out with some of the few friends I had in my classroom. I was a shy girl, but there were some kids I was actually comfortable with; I remember some of us sitting around a table and talking/laughing. On the other hand: I wasn’t a fitness girl by any means. Sure, I “played” soccer during recess, which essentially meant just standing around while the real dynamos kicked the ball. This was intense. Needless to say, I was always last in each of these activities and I was always slow.

Then came the rope.

In the middle of the area was a large mud hole. The point was to grab a rope and swing across the hole to get over to the other side. Simple, right? I wanted to throw up. I had already failed at every single activity. Why would this end up in anything other than total disaster? Of course, I was last to go. I gulped. I grabbed the rope. Gravity took over, if only for a few seconds. I was moving. Moments later, all of me was drowning in mud.

Raucous laughter ensued. I think my teacher was even laughing. I was a mess. Clothes, face, everything covered in mud. I wanted to cry, scream, even chuckle a little so they would think I had been on it the whole time, purposely falling into a mud hole for some attempt at comedy.

On the bus ride back to the school, I listened as some of the kids talked about me. The mud on my clothes. How I looked. Describing how I fell in the hole. I remember gazing out of the window and wishing–and it wouldn’t be the first time in my adolescent life–that I could just disappear.

The website for Hemlock Overlook states that these adventures teach the adventurers about team collaboration. If the goal was to teach my classmates, even my teacher, how to collaborate by laughing at me in unison, then, yes, it worked. I learned a few different things from the experience, however. How to be humiliated. How to hold in my tears for more opportune moments when they could be released comfortably. How to sit in the filth of mud and hold my head up while people around me were sending darts by way of words in my direction. No one comforted me. No one patted me on the back and said, “Sorry, This Square Peg, at least you tried.” Nothing like that occurred.

In the past, when I’ve randomly thought about this memory, the clarity of hindsight never comes. My adult brain is rarely able break it down in a palatable way. (For years, I think I even repressed it, not really sharing the story with friends.) But looking back now, I’ve realized a few things about what the experience taught me. For one thing, I have a deep, deep spot in my heart for the kind of kid I was back then. The slower ones, the ones picked last, the ones who aren’t adept at team sports or athletics. Those are the children I want to hug and assure. Secondly, my mother has always reminded me to keep my dignity in any situation. To keep my cool. That moment on the school bus was certainly the beginning of learning how to do just that. Even if my insides were turning into mush. Le sigh.

education

Sometimes it takes place while sitting quietly on a school bus, trying not to cry, trying to hold on. Nevertheless: you learn.

What are your seminal moments from childhood? What did you learn? Share? Pretty please? 

real talk.

blooming

Life will stink.

Life will get messy.

People will let you down.

Friends will shut you out.

Work will feel like a jackhammer.

Creativity will be stifled.

Love will be slow.

Time will lag.

Dreams will remain dreams and not the reality you want.

You will look in the mirror and not like what you see.

This is life. 

But you already know that, don’t you? The hills and valleys of life are readily known by you. And me.

You’re alive. Sometimes you will sag and not bloom, but you’re alive.

It will be OK.

Onwards and Upwards.

{Guest Blogger} – “I Fell in Love…With Myself”

Support your Square Peg! Support your Square Peg! Support your…typewriter2

I wrote and submitted a guest blog post that was shared on the The Sum of Many Things, “A Lifestyle, Wellness and Personal Development Blog for Busy Women of Color.” (Amazing tagline, right?) Direct link to my post is here. I’d love to hear/read your thoughts about the piece, of course.

Thanks for your support. You’ll make this writer/blogger/author/unceasing lover of Ricky Schroder very happy.

Bon weekend…

schroder
Bae since 1980.

 

“when you gonna make up your mind?”

nora

Confession: I lost a bit of myself in 2017.

I think it happens to every woman. Here and there, pieces of who we are, good pieces, at that, begin to crumble at our feet. The sources of that quiet, subtle destruction are many. Discouragement, lack of confidence, heartbreak, loss, pain, unhappiness–so, so many things. Womanhood is hard. If you’re a woman, you know what I’m talking about. We struggle. We weep. We bleed. Of course, this is the human experience, isn’t it? Every human being endures. Every human being has to fight to hold on. Sometimes I do wonder if there seems to be an extra layer of things to fight for when you’re a woman. Maybe our emotions get the best of us. Maybe it’s biological. I don’t know.

2017 was an interesting year of womanhood for me. Instead of going into the specifics of that journey and all the things I experienced, I want to talk about what I learned and continue to learn from those experiences, as we’re only weeks into 2018 and a new year doesn’t necessarily mean a ton of changes have been irrevocably made. Here are three things I now know for sure.

Protect your heart. A friend once gave me this piece of advice. The heart has many chambers, he said. Know which ones to open and which ones to keep closed.  It’s important to protect both your heart and the energy around it. Because people are powerful. Sometimes we open a chamber without really wanting to, only because we’ve been stupefied and transfixed into action. Know the people around you. Resist them if you need to. Let them in only if they deserve to be there. (I don’t diminish the excitement that comes from meeting someone who seems like they’ll be good for your heart. Maybe they are. Maybe not. Exercise caution.) There were times in 2017 that I didn’t listen to my intuition. That I forced feelings that, deep down, weren’t there. It’s all related to the heart. Protect it however you can. It doesn’t need a suit of armor, but it needs a lock and key.

Protect your ‘no.’ One of the most brilliant, thought-provoking statements I’ve ever heard is the following: No is a complete sentence. It fell by the wayside for me a bit in 2017, this ability to say no and mean it and allow that to be a viable answer. Sometimes I said yes when I didn’t want to. Sometimes I found myself qualifying my no. I’m getting back to protecting my adult right to choose if I’m going to do something or not. You may be accused of not wanting to try new things, of being scared, of not being open-minded. Sure. But determine those things for yourself, dear reader. I’m all for suggestions, but I’m also all for honoring the rights of others, myself included.

Protect your you. Ever mess up royally, just full of mistakes, and then start to call your own self every objectionable thing in the book? It’s intense. It’s not beating yourself up. It’s beating yourself up and then some. You become every villain, every ounce of ineptitude, every horrible thing. Look. 2017 was hard, you guys. I found myself going about 600 paces back when it came to my personal insistence on building myself up. It was very much the opposite: there were times when I verbally and mentally pushed myself so far down…it was just incredible. Protect your you. It’s a bit trite and treacly to say, but I’m saying it anyway: the value you bring to anything is immeasurable. Even if something implodes, you were part of it. Just whatever you do, especially as a woman: hold on to your value. There are things other say, and then there’s what you say about yourself. Protect that power.

I’m continuing to take 2018 one day at a time. Let’s hope there aren’t too many pieces of me left on the ground as I make my way. You, too.

tori

[The post title is a lyric from Tori Amos’ amazing song, Winter. All about growing up, choices, leaving the fairy tales behind. Appropriate for our discussion, no?]

ain’t nothing changed.

As much as I’m thankful and grateful for the journey of changes in this life of mine (it took a long time to fall in love with myself, for example; self-worth/self-respect/self-esteem came late for me, but those things came right when they needed to 👐🏾), some things remain exactly the same for your Square Peg. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  1. sideeyeI still side eye strangers. It’s nice to meet new people. It is. But that nine year-old who barely trusted folks who weren’t mother or father hasn’t completely disappeared. Look: stranger danger is a thing. If we’ve never, ever met, there’s a chance that I’m checking all the exits in case you decide to flip out and/or request something I’d rather not give you, like limbs or kidneys. It is what it is.
  2. I still watch YouTube videos on how to style/wash/manage my natural hair. I returned to natural six years ago. *shrug* One never stops learning. And one forgets. And one finds a bizarre comfort in watching other people wash hair3their hair. And once needs reminders that detangling is a necessity. I mean just because you graduated from school doesn’t mean you don’t still (mind the double negative there) text your old Math teacher to ask her how to calculate percentages, right? Right? Hello? Anyone?
  3. I still use my library card. I haven’t in a while, need a new one for a new state, but I’m a library card believer. Here’s a story for why I consider it a privilege and not a right: my mother had me banned from checking out books from my local librarylibrary when I was about 13 years old. You see, I was a chronic later book returner. Like chronic. I also had this terrible habit of not remembering where I left my books. (Honestly, my mother’s wish that I have a daughter just like me when I was a teenager was appropriate.) As a result, my Mom was usually left with paying my fines. So, one fine day, Mom went to my favorite library and informed the librarians that I was disallowed from using my card until I turned 18. Yes. 18. So. Gangsta. I was heartbroken, wanted to scream and rage at her (but didn’t because I wanted to also live), etc. But it happened. And on my 18th day of birth, I went right to that library and re-applied for a new card. And promptly incurred more fines. But I was a working woman by then, so who was ‘gon check me, boo? (She was. I became much more careful. *nervous laughter*)
  4. dogsI still have my checkbook. Nope, you’re not in Jurassic Park. There aren’t dinosaurs drifting around you. I haven’t written an actual check in many moons, but there are still some companies that ask for your full checking account number with the twenty-five zeroes. Since that number remains unknown to me by memory, I make sure that my check book is somewhere nearby.
  5. I still wear slips. I am the daughter of an African woman. If I stopped wearing them, even despite the distance and states between us, she would know. Of course, honestly, I don’t wear them as much as I did back in the day. If a skirt or dress has lining in it, I opt to not add more fabric to it. But if I wear something thin or could potentially have a moment a la marilynMarilyn Monroe, I will so throw on a half slip. Sure, I’ve had moments recently where I realized, with cold dread, that the thing was slowly descending towards my ankles…but you know what? Panic is good for the soul. Keeps you alive. Not really. I digress. On the off chance that what I’m wearing may expose, uh, exposure, slips are still my go-to.
  6. I’m still salty about the ending of Lost. There’s nothing more to say.
  7. I still believe in the power of good penmanship. Not only do I believe in it, but I openly admire it when I see it. I know no one writes anything down anymore, so yeah, but on the off-chance that I see someone put paper to pen…and do it so well…and use flowy cursive or straight lines…happy sigh. Look, my sixth-grade teacher nearly hit me for not being able to get that cursive ‘r’ just right. Apropos of nothing. But back then, it was important to write well. It just was. Time and technology happen, so this isn’t a diatribe against that (I am typing all of this), but it’s a lost art that I enjoy seeing and doing.
  8. I still can’t end a list with an odd number. If loving even numerals is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Some things never change.

Are you lover of change? Or no? Or both? Or…just tell me.

Bon weekend…

 

(Un)necessary.

What is?

closuregif

Closure. Let me tell you a story. Many, many moons ago during that perilous decade known as my Twenties, I met a boy. He was nice; we became friends. Eventually, I developed a crush on him (as I was prone to do) and silly me, I believed that he felt romantical (definitely not a word) about me in return. He didn’t. After some time of seeing that my efforts to engage him met with silence, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in me. Disappointing? Yes. Ultimately something I moved on from? Absolutely. And then a friend and I talked about it and she encouraged me to reveal my feelings for him, something I had never communicated. “You need closure,” she kept saying. “You need to know where you stand, once and for all.” But, dear reader, I already knew where I stood. It was startlingly clear: this boy had zero interest in your Square Peg. So why did I nod along with her talk of closure and needing to definitively know whether the door between us needed to stay closed or could possibly re-open? Because deep down, I wanted to know, too. And I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the door didn’t have to remain closed.

Le sigh.

I reached out to him and we’ll just say that he definitively made his feelings known: the door was not only closed but had been slammed shut. It was a punch to the heart, to say the least. But the bruises healed. I learned my lesson and I moved on. And what lesson did I learn? Closure isn’t always unnecessary. closure

Is my statement borne from the bruises that were inflicted on my heart because I re-opened a door that should have remained closed? Sure. After all, I could have saved myself the endless tears that came from his unrelenting honesty. I could have saved myself from the humiliation I felt so deeply. I could have saved myself from the anxiety that came from wondering if he had shared this story with his or our mutual friends. Yes, my statement is riddled with bias. But here’s the thing: in life, in general, my story notwithstanding, sometimes a goodbye, your goodbye, is one-sided and that’s OK. (I just killed a family of commas.) Sometimes both parties don’t need to officially end something. When you know and understand that it’s over, is it necessarily important that the other party acknowledge that it’s over, too? I really don’t think so.

I’m sure a roomful of therapists is presently finding my opinion laughable (and note that it’s my opinion), but that situation with the boy and many, many others that came after taught me a few things: closure2

  • Sudden silence in a relationship doesn’t always require a summary.
  • People disappear.
  • You never hear about certain topics again.
  • Friends quietly move on.

As much as I view myself as a Law and Order/Murder, She Wrote-type investigator, I’ve learned that certain moments in life don’t need me to dig deep. Silence speaks volumes when it needs to. But This Square Peg, you say, I’d rather just know where I stand with someone. I agree. However, we can’t always say that the other individual is interested in ensuring that you know where you stand with them. You know what I mean? Maybe they’re just done and somehow, they want you to get that. There won’t be an official coda.

Doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt.

Doesn’t mean you won’t be angry.

Doesn’t mean that the lack of resolution won’t eat at you.

Doesn’t mean that you won’t wonder.

But it happened.

Looking back at the situation with the boy, I initially did a lot of blaming in the aftermath. Myself for giving in to what I wanted to hear. My friend for placing that seed in my mind. The boy for being so intense with his honesty. The boy for not realizing how amazing I was. The boy for…we’ll stop there. Because hindsight and age mean understanding. Here’s what I now know for sure, clearer than an ending or a resolution or closure: it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Let me know your thoughts about closure in the comments…are you for it? Against it? Doesn’t matter? 

Discoveries. (Or, Eureka, We Keep Finding Her.)

We never stop growing and learning about ourselves, do we? Below are some of the things I’ve realized about myself lately, because I’m all about epiphanies, epiphanies, dive-into-self-discoveryepiphanies…anyway, read on, s’il vous plait.

  1. Discovery: I receive a special kind of joy from unsubscribing to the abundance of emails that clog my various inboxes. There’s nothing like cutting the cord. And I accept that this provides a level of contentment that I can’t fully describe.
  2. Discovery: shyness never really goes away. But it becomes manageable. I have tons of friends who don’t believe that I was or am a shy person, and I attribute all of that to good shyness management; i.e., ignoring that 9 year-old who’d prefer that I retreat and hide and keep quiet. She’s cute but bossy. (Side note: I really appreciate the few people in my life who keenly see shades of that 9 year-old in my actions and completely give me room to navigate it all. It’s nice to be known.)
  3. Discovery: I give people very few chances to edit themselves. If you’re rude or mean or dismissive from jump, I rarely have the desire to want to see you change your ways. Because, deep down, I don’t believe you want to. People have the ability to be better and I should want them to want to, riiiiiight? Working on this one.
  4. Discovery: if I smile at you and you don’t smile back, you’ve ruined that aspect of my day. In other words, I’ve put a lot of importance of non-verbal communication lately, more than I have in the past. But perhaps this goes hand in hand with #3. Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’re constipated. I don’t know. Working on it. (I think it’s because if I’ve made the effort to be polite despite the insanity of my day, you should too? But when was human nature ever so black and white?)
  5. Discovery: I compete with other drivers. When you’re in the next lane and you rev up and increase your speed, I do the same thing. And I like to win. Don’t tell Mom.
  6. Discovery: also related to 3&4. Despite my penchant for quietly psychoanalyzing people, psychoanalysis isn’t necessarily insight. And as much as I dig deep in my own psyche and examine my choices and actions and why I do them, I honestly don’t give that time to other people. Insight and the ability to really see into a situation and the people involved is a gift. One I don’t have. And real talk: I think this also limits my fiction and the ability to really see into my characters.
  7. Discovery: I’m not as cynical or pessimistic as I like to believe. I am the child of parents who believed in and functioned on high levels of optimism. I think I’ve been volleying between those two opposing forces my whole life: cushioning myself in pessimism but nursing, deep down, the hope that I’ll be proven wrong.
  8. Discovery: During difficult times, writing has always been a crutch and/or a distraction for me. Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that I was born to be a writer. But my inability to be creative lately makes me wonder if looking at writing beyond what it is–an art form–is why I can’t seem to get into it lately. Am I placing on it requirements that it’s not equipped to handle? As in: making me feel better?

Thanks for visiting epiphany central. What things have you learned about yourself lately?

On Smart Cookies.

Let’s celebrate this Throwback Thursday with a ‘lil story/psychoanalysis/discussion/boatloadof unanswerable questions, shall we?

I’ll start by saying this: I’m a smart cookie. No shade or ego. I simply own my intelligence. And if you haven’t done the same thing, please do. You’re not walking around telling perfect strangers that you know it all. You’re just acknowledging what you know to be true for yourself: you’ve got a working brain. Woo hoo. And it’s all relative, by the way. I may not still understand binomials, but I know plenty of other things. In other words, no one is 100 percent amazing brain-wise, perhaps with the exception of the Mensa ladies and Einstein. And there are plenty of folks who side eye a pile of books but know plenty of things about life and how to navigate it. But own it, either way.

However, back in the day, this chocolate bookworm who enjoyed many days reading encyclopedias in her parent’s basement and devouring facts and information entered high school and almost immediately buried her brain. And there was only one group of people I hid this fact from: boys. Don’t ask me how or why. I was 14 years old. (Actually, with the way my birth month is set up, when I started high school, I was 13 years old. A little girl. Le sigh.) In looking back, there was no rhyme or reason to it. One day in 9th grade, a boy in my class asked me if I understood the assignment our teacher had just given us. I described it in detail, interpreting it for him, after which he said, “wow, you’re really smart.” What was my response? “No, I’m not,” I replied, laughing nervously. This happened often: denying, above all, that I had any abilities whatsoever when it came learning, analytical thinking, etc., especially when a boy acknowledged me. There was a bizarre level of panic when this happened–I didn’t want to be mocked or seen as knowing more than the guy standing in front of me. Was it innate? A weird biological response to the age-old adage of girls only needing to look pretty? After all, my mother, one of the most intelligent women I know, never uttered those words to me. I was never told to “dumb it down.” So where did the desire to downplay any kind of smarts even come from? Oh, and there were girls who uttered that “wow, you’re smart” comment to me, too, and although I still downplayed it, I don’t recall that almost manic need to dismiss their words like I would with boys.

Maybe it goes back to what I said above. No wants to seem like an arrogant jerk while acknowledging what they can do. But for women, it’s almost as if we carry 100 pounds of guilt when it comes to acknowledging what we can do, particularly when it comes to intelligence. The archaic, ridiculous notions of women’s abilities being limited to cooking meals and birthing babies have been around since time began; maybe I was carrying that on me, in me, without even fully realizing it. Maybe I was also deathly shy and didn’t want, even for a second, any attention being given to me. Which is also true. Maybe it’s all the above. I don’t know. When I entered college and realized that my education was actually up to me (in other words, school ain’t free; tuition is involved; you get what  you pay for), this need to hide my brain still took a while to go away. I remember being a college freshman in English 101. The assignment was to write about a memory. Our professor chose to highlight my essay and read portions of it aloud to the class. She was full of praise and encouragement. I wanted to fall through the ground. By senior year, when my strengths and confidence as a writer had grown, another professor did the exact same thing. I handled it differently. I thanked him and told him how his encouragement helped me. Was it age? Growing older? 18 vs.22? Or did it have something to do with a female professor vs. a male professor giving the praise and encouragement, the male approval making it seem more acceptable? Insert thinking emoji here.

(Told you there’d be unanswerable questions.)

I do know one thing: “dumb it down” has been said to me in my adult life more than once. Not at 14 and not at 22. While adulting. And although I don’t necessarily understand when I turned the corner from terror of smartness to finally feeling confident in my abilities, I do know that each time I heard that silly, objectionable phrase, I laughed in the speaker’s face. So there you go. 

These days, my abilities are only important to one person: me. Sometimes I’d love to revisit that 13/14 year-old and help her to stop choosing fear and pretense. But we’ll wait for another smart cookie to build that time machine.