I have a wonderful, creative friend who has a blog and a group of us collaborate with him. I’m possibly the worst of the group, turning in writings late or not at all each month. I’m an undisciplined writer, but the fact that I will now at least call myself a “writer” (although it’s tough and I used quotation marks), is major progress. I’m honored to at least be asked to contribute; he hasn’t given up on me. The topics aren’t required of us, but there are suggestions to help out in case we’re stuck. This month one struck me. Hard. It’s Things I Used To Believe. I think very often about my beliefs, partially because I’m asked often about my them. Sometimes—although rarely—I’m unsure. And certainly, many things have changed since I’m in my late thirties.
As my birthday comes up, I started thinking even more than I usually do. Not because I especially care about birthdays—I don’t. I actually forget most people’s birthdays. But I’m a fourth-grade teacher, and for kids, it’s a HUGE thing to have a birthday. I also teach kids in poverty who may not get a single thing for their birthday. So to them, simply recognizing it’s their day matters a great deal. They’re counting the days to mine, and that matters a great deal to ME.
My students care so much what I believe about absolutely anything that I have to be careful how I say things. We teach fact vs. opinion as a skill in both fourth and fifth grades, and they honestly get it better than most adults. Still, my words carry power as an adult who sees them much of their waking hours. And it makes me realize that my own opinions are my personal facts. So here, my truths, in list form simply because I love lists.
· I used to think there were actual childhoods, only I was too scared to have one.
· I thought people could talk about politics and learn about things that way. It’s how I did. I grew up in a split-party household. They refused to tell us what party to be, only to talk about both sides. I thought that’s how it worked.
· I thought alcoholism and AA were something to be embarrassed of, and not to tell kids at school I knew about. Then I went to my first open meeting and saw other kids I knew. We formed this secret club, and I knew I wasn’t alone. I was as proud of their dads as I was of my own. I hope they have 32 years too and God, grant them the serenity.
· I once hoped I was more than my breasts. Now I know most of the time, I’m not.
· I thought I would be a bad mother. That I couldn’t handle it. I hadn’t been tested enough—I didn’t yet know that I could handle anything. I can’t say more than that here, but I just didn’t know.
· I once believed that adults were right back when I was in high school and that maybe you DO outgrow your friends, and maybe driving DOES get old. False. Some adults are condescending and just bad with teenagers. Those were the ones saying those asinine things to me over and over. I kept the friends I needed, and that needed me. For 20 and 30 years. Not because we talk about high school, because we talk about now. Because we love each other now. I drive because my best friend/cousin died when we were sophomores in high school in a car accident. I was either going to be afraid to drive or do the damn thing. I chose to drive, safely, to the lake most likely. It’s still one of my biggest stress relievers. Loud music, windows up, Thunder Dogg in the back.
· I thought talking to friends about a relationship helped. No. Talking to the person you’re in a relationship helps. Or a professional. Writing. That’s it for me.
· For maybe 7 minutes I thought I liked disco music.
· I thought I wanted a sister. That my parents conspired against me to give me only brothers and make me the only girl and leave me stranded on some horrible, lonely island. Instead, I found out I was IN HEAVEN AND HAD IT MADE. I had my own room, didn’t have to share clothes (except I did, because Matt and I shared giant concert t-shirts and sweatpants, since I dressed terribly), and became incredibly close with all my female cousins, none of whom had any sisters either. I am the middle child in almost all senses of the word, except I never felt ignored or left out because—you got it—I AM THE ONLY GIRL. Geniuses, those parents.
· I thought I could write. But I love the occasional run-on sentence, especially when used intentionally. See above.
· I thought my brain was on my side. I believed it to be a weapon I could fight things with, not a gun that would turn on me.
· I hoped I could be friends with guys, and not be left behind. I thought the women they loved would see what the guys saw in me—a trustworthy friend who isn’t a threat. Instead, I’ve become mostly a choice and an ultimatum, and I’m not going to be chosen. I expected much more of women and of the men who I gave too much time and trust to.
· I didn’t think my beliefs would change so much.