What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you?

“Let go, be free, and be unequivocally and unapologetically yourself. The ones who are meant to stay will, and the others will have been in your life because God wanted to teach you something. How you handle those cards that you’ve been dealt? That’s on you to decide.” ~Burchell, R.I.P.


This is probably the only memory I have (or remember; it’s anyone’s guess) of receiving advice that wasn’t complete dog shit, and not from the local hipsters where the only kind of ‘deity’ is the humble marijuana plant but came from a stable I was hired to be a stable hand at.

I would work for them like five or six nights a week, shoveling the stalls daily, preparing grain and supplements for each individual horses needs. I remember distinctly the chart I used to have to hold my first month there. It had all the horses’ names listed, along with the type, amount, and supplements (if any) that each individual horse needed.

I would measure it out for the morning stable hands or the owner of the organization, her daughter (Sarah) would be able to feed them early in the morning (at 5:00am, and who also didn’t enjoy being awake at that time) and avoid having to arrive even earlier than 5:00am just to avoid the loud stomping, kicking, and whinnying of impatient, angry horses whose only wish is to eat their breakfast and munch on their hay undisturbed.

I can remember the first time I ever was assigned this task, and I was squinting at the list, checking and rechecking the amounts, reading the seemingly endless bottles of dietary supplements, some dry, some liquid, and even a supplement that women could not (and this was stressed to me numerous times) touch; well I guess it only effects menstruating women because if your skin came in contact with it, it had the potential to severely alter your menstrual cycle.

Oh, and the last two of my assigned duties was to turn out the horses into different pastures, one for the mares and one for the geldings and stallions and scrubbing the water buckets every Friday. This is what led me to receive this advice.

It was late on a Friday night, and the only reason I really remember it is because I was unable to clean the buckets due to this incident and that subsequently led to a minor disagreement between his daughter and I; and Burchell defended me when this happened.

I was unaware that he had even said anything to anyone. In hindsight I do remember that he was there that night, so by default that made him my only credible witness, who had watched the scene unfurl from start to finish. I also think he saw something in me that I had yet to become aware of and am probably still not privy to.

The day started normal enough, I had arrived early because I didn’t have class (or didn’t go, hard to tell which) that day and my mother had to work at around noon and when you have no car, no friends, and your mother doesn’t enjoy making multiple trips (understandable), you have no choice but to hitchhike your way everywhere and always at least three hours before you’re supposed to be there; to the mall, to your job, or in my case to the stables. On this day, I was probably about five or six hours earlier than was necessary.

The way most barns operate is relatively simple, but flip flops with the inevitable change of the seasons, with the largest tweaks to the horses’ pasture schedule occurring in the winter and summer months.

In the summer the horses are kept in their stalls for the entire day because of the intense heat and humidity during this time of year. Then after they are fed their evening grain (around 5:00pm), they’re turned out into their designated pastures (about an hour or so later), left there all night to be brought in early in the morning to eat, and then the cycle repeats.

In the winter, it’s flip flopped, so the horses are turned out during the day, and left in their stalls at night because it’s too cold in the pastures at night during the winter for the types of horses that were at this barn, especially with no type of shelter that they can take cover in to escape the biting wind and snow. Let me add quickly because I’m sure most of you are thinking something along the lines of:

“But aren’t there wild horses? Why would it be too cold for domesticated horses and not so for wild horses?”

And to that my answer would be, when you have show horses, they’re schooled (trained) in the ‘off-season’ which is in the winter. Show horses are pampered because their appearance is scored along with their performance so to preserve their coat (and by default stopping the horses normal winter fur from growing in as thick) they’re blanketed in the winter, and fly sheets are draped over them in the summer to avoid the flies and keep them from being bitten by horse flies and other creepy crawlies, that I now have to stop talking about because I hate bugs.

At the time, this ‘first professional blunder’ took place it was probably mid-summer, the beginning of July, and (as I stated earlier) I arrived like five or six hours earlier than I had to be.

Typically when you clean a stall, you wait until the horses are turned out and aren’t in their stalls, this is usually just for speed purposes so you aren’t forced to remove them from the stall you’re cleaning, nor are you forced to clean the stall with them in it, with a horse you aren’t comfortable with or you don’t own.

I had time to kill, is what I’m ultimately hinting at. And Burchell being ‘knight in shining armor’ that he was, figured out my schedule rather quickly and would always hang out with me at the barn. I’d consider us to have a pretty good relationship, he was a mentor to me almost.

As the day wore on, and the heat increased, it was nearing time for the horses to be let out after messing around and reading and talking or doing whatever it was that I was doing. I had seen the weather report that day and it contradicted severely with the bright blue skies and white fluffy clouds in the sky, they looked like pillows.

I hesitated a bit, waiting for another boarder to arrive so I could ask them their opinion because the horses absolutely are forbidden to be outside in any type of weather that could be harmful to them, i.e. thunderstorms which is what was forecasted and it was supposed to be a bad one.

I stared at the clock, watching the minutes tick by ever so slowly, when I heard the big barn doors open, I was relieved to see one of my favorite boarders and owner of a beautiful dressage horse named Mack; her name was Kerri and often served as the most rational person to go to if you needed any advice.

She had come to my aid on numerous occasions and never with any judgement. Patient and kind as she was, it felt pretty natural to ask her whether or not I should turn the horses out despite the weather forecast, especially for someone of my low rankings within the hierarchy, it shows inexperience, and can sew seeds of doubt with the boarders in your ability to care for their animals.

She answered in her usual sing-songy way and told me that in her opinion it appeared that the storm was going to pass over us (as is often the case with Ohio and thunderstorms, especially in the area that we were in). I found myself agreeing and Burchell always the one to give his input agreed and I went about my duties as normal.

When I had turned them all out and finished all of the stalls it was time to clean the buckets. Cleaning buckets was arguably the task I hated the most. It was messy, you always ended up drenched in water, and they were always ridiculously heavy, and just as I was ready to start cleaning them, the brightest flash of lightning flashed in the sky. Then the roaring of thunder cracked and rumbled like the sound of a bridge collapsing.

Although I wasn’t obligated to bring all of the horses back inside, I felt slightly responsible for having let them out knowing that there could be a potential storm, and for the safety of the horses. As I had resigned myself to the realization that I would have to sacrifice one of my two days off and scrubbing buckets on Saturday, my father walked into the barn just as the rain started to pelt the tin roof of the barn, it sounded like golf balls or ping pong balls slamming into the roof with an astonishing amount of force.

I ran out into the rain, thunder, and lightning lead rope in hand as Kerri followed behind me, as I had never been responsible for bringing in the horses and I had no idea to accomplish it. I had to trudge through both fields, the farthest one located across the outdoor riding ring to the gates on the other side. I opted to bring the mares in first, because they were the closest and would arguably be the most difficult to bring back inside. Kerri and I managed to herd them like sheep towards the front of the field, and I began to bring them one by one back to their stalls.

There were I believe 14 horses in total, 8 of them being mares and the others a gelding and one stallion. Once I hurriedly had the mares in place with their doors latched securely, Kerri and I trudged back into the downpour and as we walked toward the designated field, we were very pleased to see all of them gathered at the gate, looking far less bothered than the mares, they were lazily munching on grass, almost like they expected us to bring them inside.

We brought them in no problem, and by this point it was far too late to even attempt to clean 28 buckets two for each horse, and once again I had to come to the realization that they would not be done that night, and I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to play out with the owner, however I was drenched from head to toe, slick with sweat and rain, and could hardly will my body to move another inch.

I was practically dragging my sore limbs out to the car, and I was starving. Kerri thanked me profusely, which I was sort of confused by because I was under the impression that it was my job, I didn’t give it much thought, telling myself that I would worry about the potential consequences tomorrow. I hopped in the car, the only thing on my mind being food.

The next day I had slept in very late and was awoken to numerous amounts of missed calls and text messages from the owner, pretty much grilling me about not having done the buckets. I was surprised that no one had told her about the events of the night prior and I explained to her what had happened and that I would be out later that day to clean them, I just didn’t have the time and my father was there and couldn’t stay late.

I craved sleep, my schedule at this time in my life was utter chaos. I went to school from 10:45am to 1:45pm, went to work from 2:00pm to 9:30pm and then off to the stables from 9:45pm until whenever I finished which was usually around 11:00pm.

I arrived shortly after the phone call, feeling slightly annoyed that I even had to be there when I did, I didn’t find it to be that big of a deal considering my options were to either leave the buckets dirty and bring the horses inside or leave the horses outside and clean the buckets, and in my mind the safety of the horses was more important.

As I was scrubbing the buckets, I felt the weight of a hand on my shoulder, it was Burchell. He told me that he understood my decision and even went so far as to tell me that he agreed with my decision and at that I couldn’t help but burst into tears.

They rolled down my face, and the tears felt hot and warm like lava from a volcano, and they seemed to not want to stop. I hated disappointing people or failing to complete a task that was expected of me, so I was being probably too hard on myself for a 15 year old with massive amounts of responsibility that even an adult would struggle with (albeit not as frequent).

He spoke to me as someone who was sympathetic to my cause, either from a previous personal experience or out of pure like for me. We got along well, and I always managed to make him laugh and I would inquire about his health often. I mean, hell he was the only one that sat with me on those long days I skipped school, and the barn was nearly empty, the only sounds emanating from it were the sounds of the horses stomping in their stalls, horses munching on hay, the shuffling of their tails, and the occasional whinny or snort. Other than that, silent.

This is when he told me that he had never seen someone with quite the work-ethic I had, nor had he ever seen anyone procrastinate so hard with every assigned task but manage to get the job done with speed and efficiency that somehow exceeded expectations. At this I laughed, stopping the tears only temporarily, which I’m sure was the point, but he continued, taking advantage of the break in my tears, and told me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and that I was a very impressive young lady and someone that he respected and thought very highly of.

And that is when he told me that I should learn to let things go. I should stop fixating and free myself from the need to do so. That I should be confident enough in my skills and my abilities to take on any challenge with enthusiasm. He advised that the ones that matter will stay, and that the ones that don’t are there because God wanted to teach me something.

I think that last part was a covert acknowledgement that I was correct in my gut feelings about Kerri and correct in my gut feelings towards some of the other boarders, and that’s not to say I had any visible issues or spats or falling outs with anyone there, no quite the opposite actually, everyone was very helpful but in hindsight I suppose there were some boarders that were probably skeptical of having their horses looked after by a 15 year old, which is understandable.

However, it’s not as if I was handling their horses with no one there, in fact I was very careful in making sure that I didn’t clean any stalls until they were let out for this specific reason; I didn’t want to handle the boarders horses without them being there, unless it was an emergency.

The tears slowly came to a halt, and I finished my chores, and went home. Kerri actually called me later to tell me that her and Burchell had said something to the owner of the facilities, and I was a little bit taken aback, Burchell was not the type of person to let an opportunity to tout the favor he did for you and inquire about what you ‘owe’ him for it pass him up, and I had just talked to him.

I smiled, thinking in my head the old man had gone soft on me, sparing my feelings and absolute embarrassment at having to have someone speak on my behalf. I was a prideful teenager with an gregarious ego not befitting a 90 pound girl, and him giving me that grace, that amount of respect from a person that was older than every person at the barn, respected and had a fondness for me that I appreciated almost instantaneously.

I would never forget that advice and I’m 26 now, and for the record Kerri ended up schooling me in dressage because my groundwork was pitiful and even gave me an English Kincade, Close Contact saddle, size 6 that was a beautiful mahogany color, and ode to the ‘Traveling Saddle’ that was my very first English saddle, also a beautiful mahogany, that was handed down as a gift that both of my best friends had also used when they each made the decision to jump and transitioned over to the English riding style.

I couldn’t be anymore grateful to Kerri for that because those are some very fond memories and having an exact replica of that saddle to use, as the first and only saddle for my first and last horse was the icing on top of the cake for me.

Burchell was right, the ones that matter will stay. Whether that be in the flesh or in the heart, the ones that are true friends will stay and often for a long time, if they ever truly leave.

In a word: Wall

There’s nothing like ‘hitting the wall’.  It’s a rather quaint expression used when you have used up all your energy and there’s nothing left.  A lot…

In a word: Wall

Multiple Prompts

Jim is our host for the Friday Faithfuls and his topic this week is prompts, and using multiple prompts in one post. I host a few prompts, the 3TC, …

Multiple Prompts

Who is Alan Whitcomb Now?

Walden University

 Mock Case Study for Psychology 101

Who is Allen Whitcomb Now?

Allen Whitcomb is 47-year-old man, who is married with two children is college. For the most part he has been healthy his whole life until recently he got in a bad car accident and lost his leg due to texting while driving. He claims that the car that hit him was further away and slower than it was, and he is also color blind. Since the accident he has been experiencing pain for which he takes over the counter medications and has gained 20 pounds and has trouble sleeping. He has also reported that when he hears the song that was playing during the accident his heart rate increases. His wife reports that he seeks a quiet and calm environment and is quite mean to her after he watches violent television, she describes him as quiet, tense, anxious, unfriendly, and on edge. In regard to work he has been having attendance problems, either being late or not showing up at all. His manager reports he has problems with memory and processing the new filing system that has been put in place at his job. He also seems to forget information after a few moments.

Allen’s reports can be attributed to a few topics and studies in psychology, including the central core of the brain and how behavior is affected by damage to the limbic system, sensation, association areas of the cortex, which includes memory, learning, and emotion and I will talk about these individually and discover who Allen Whitcomb is now with the information I have learned about the brain

Brain and Behavior

            When talking about the brain and how it relates to Allen’s behavior I want to talk about the central core of the brain and the main structures as most of them pertain to Allen. Starting with the medulla, which is what controls heart rate and this is the part of the brain that causes Allen’s elevated heart rate every time he hears the song that was playing during his accident. More specifically the hypothalamus because it triggers a survival response, otherwise known as “fight or flight” response. Feldman, R. (2020). This response is activated when he hears that song or similar sounding song because his body associates this with survival. Feldman, R. (2020).

            The next structure is the forebrain, and located in the forebrain is reticular formation, which determines whether or not a specific action or reaction is necessary. Feldman, R. (2020). With the information that I have, I can determine that there is damage to the forebrain that causes Allen to react when a reaction is not necessarily called for in a given situation. But the reticular formation also controls sleep and sleep patterns, Feldman, R. (2020), so this could be the reason that Allen has trouble sleeping, since he claims his sleep-wake cycle has been disrupted.

           

Sensation and Perception

            Sensation as it relates to Allen has everything to do with the amount of pain that he has had since his accident. Pain could be a reaction to a few different things, one being perceptual, meaning it could be a reaction to how he feels about his accident or even a thought. Feldman, R. (2020). In Allen’s case, he attributes his poor work ethic to pain while his therapist suggests it is most likely anxiety. Both could potentially be factors. Something extremely small in the grand scheme of all of Allen’s issues could cause anxiety. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen also claims that he is depressed and in response his therapist has suggested that he smile more. This specific request might sound unnecessary, but it does have a purpose. It is a cognitive treatment that some psychologists have been known to use and it involves reconstructing the way he may think. If he swaps his negative thoughts for positive ones, that sense of control, no matter how big or small, that does have the potential to decrease the pain he has. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen is also an amputee, which could explain his discomfort in the form of phantom limb pain, which can be offset through a therapy called mirror pain therapy. Feldman, R. (2020). In mirror pain therapy, mirrors are used to make it look like both limbs are intact, Feldman, R. (2020), for Allen it is his legs. This is supposed to make the brain stop sending messages that are perceived as pain to the leg that is no longer there Feldman, R. (2020). This could help Allen stop having pain and get back to work if employed properly and by the correct psychologist.

Learning and Memory

            The limbic system is actually involved with thinking and memory as well as emotions and aggression. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has substantial damage to this part of his brain, more so, than any of the others. His boss has reported that Allen is having trouble learning the new filing system at work and that he frequently forgets things after a couple of minutes. This is caused by damage to the hippocampus, which renders him unable to remember recent events, while leaving the memories prior to the accident intact. Feldman, R. (2020). More specifically, damage to the hippocampus is especially sensitive to tasks where objects need to be linked together and placed in specific locations. Rolls ET. (2018). This could be the cause of Allen getting confused by the new filing system that has been implemented at his job, seeing as significant damage has been done to the hippocampus.

            Allen reports that his problems at work are because of pain, however, his therapist disagrees, she believes his problems at work are the cause of anxiety. This anxiety is why he now feels that he will not be good enough at work, which directly translates to why he does better work with others than he does on his own. He lacks the confidence in himself to be able to live up to the standards his job expects of him.

He has reported feeling judgement since the accident and has claimed that people look at him differently. His boss reports that he is often late or calls in sick, anxiety about feeling both judgement from others and the anxiety that he may not be able to perform well is most likely the cause of his attendance problems. Not to mention he works the night shift, and that may be why he has problems sleeping.

Motivation and Emotion

            The motivation to eat is seen as a primary drive and is controlled by the hypothalamus which regulates food intake. Feldman, R. (2020). This relates to Allen because he has gained 20 pounds since his accident which would imply that there has been some damage to this area of the brain. The hypothalamus affects the weight set point, the specific measure of weight that the body attempts to maintain, either telling the body to eat more or less to manage this weight set point. Feldman, R. (2020). Certain drugs, such as the over the counter medications that Allen takes for pain, can also be the cause of his weight gain, they can distort the weight set point, causing the hypothalamus to tell the body to increase the amount of food that is eaten. Feldman, R. (2020).  

            His manager has reported that he is currently working with Allen to resolve his attendance issues by setting attendance goals with him, Allen is working toward earning lunch for his entire team based on timely attendance. This is an example of a positive reinforcer, Feldman R. (2020).  Something is being added or given as a reward, the lunch for his team, to encourage or increase a certain behavior, timely attendance, Feldman, R. (2020). This reward should motivate Allen to be on time, and maybe increase the judgement he feels from co-workers as well.

            The amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain, is crucial to the expression of emotions. Feldman, R. (2020). The amygdala supplies a connection to the perception of a cause of an emotion and the recollection of that cause at a later time. Feldman, R. (2020). This sequence of events applies to Allen’s accident, because he doesn’t remember the accident but remembers the song that was playing, causing him to associate that song with the accident. Because of damage to amygdala, this display of classical conditioning could also be the cause of Allen’s elevated heart rate when hearing the song, it causes him to feel stress and fear in anticipation of the accident. This could also be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is reliving the traumatic experience, in this case his accident, either in the form of a vivid flashback or a dream, Feldman R. (2020). This flashback can be caused by something that seems irrelevant, like the song playing during the accident, but it elicits a very strong reaction in the person who is suffers from the disease. Feldman R. (2020).

Development

            Development that is impaired or stunted in childhood can affect adulthood, Feldman, R. (2020). Nature and nurture is a common debate among developmental psychologists, because some biological factors like genetics and maturation have an effect on how people may develop later on in adulthood, while some factors that affect development in adulthood are the cause of the environment, such as how well the family functions and what the family’s SES (socioeconomic status) is. Feldman, R. (2020). For Allen, his mother always said he was not good enough. This is most likely the cause of Allen’s anxiety, as he does not want to fail and lacks confidence to even try for fear of failure. His therapist also has pointed this out to Allen as a cause of his anxiety, especially when it involves work.

            His wife has stated that Allen does not have many close friends. This can affect development in that people normally have a need for affiliation, this just means that people have a desire to make friends and keep them. Feldman, R. (2020). People who withdraw themselves from friends or do not have any, as in Allen’s case, have the potential to become depressed and experience sadness. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has reported to his therapist that he is experiencing feelings of sadness and fatigue, which are two symptoms of depression as well. Feldman, R. (2020).

Personality

            Allen’s personality has been affected in a few ways. His wife has described him as quiet, tense, anxious and unfriendly. These are part of the neuroticism dimension in Hans Eysenck’s theory of traits. Feldman, R. (2020). Eysenck referred to the neuroticism dimension as being able to decide how stable a person’s emotions are, which in turn, allowed Eysenck to research people across all of the dimensions and gain the ability to foresee how they may behave. Feldman. R, (2020). Allen also displays low self-esteem in the work environment, low self-esteem is also a trait in the neuroticism dimension as described by Eysenck. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen’s wife has also reported that he watches television a lot since the accident, and after he watches violent television shows he treats her unkindly, but he seems to feel bad and is trying to stop that. This aggression, is directly correlated with the violence he sees on TV, psychologists believe that the frequency and the amount of time spent watching violent television makes them more likely to act aggressively than they normally would if they did not engage in watching violent television. Feldman, R. (2020).

Social Behavior

            Allen’s social behavior has been largely affected due to his injury, it has caused people to look at him differently and to judge his abilities based only on his disability. Allen’s attitude toward certain situations and people have also been affected. Allen thinks that all of his managers at work are unfair and overly directive. Attitudes have the potential to change our behavior toward a person or a belief, Feldman, R. (2020), in Allen’s case his attitude about his managers affects his motivation at work and his willingness to perform well. Allen has also developed an impression formation about his managers, which is how one categorizes the facts he knows about an individual, his managers, to form a generalization or impression of that individual, they are overly directive and unfair. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has developed a schema, or an expectation about how these managers act, so that he can anticipate how he will later interact with them. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen is especially susceptible to stereotype vulnerability, in which he is aware of how other people view disabled people. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen is directly connected to this because of the judgement he faces at work and because of his mother always saying that he is not good enough. As a result of his co-workers judging him, coupled with his mothers belief that he is not good enough, he has come to accept this belief, and actually think that they are not good enough. Since he has accepted this, he fears that he will confirm his mother’s belief, and will fail or will not even try because he is under the impression that he is not good enough and won’t be good enough regardless of the efforts he puts in. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen may also be a victim of poor coping skills when it directly involves stress, the more times we try to beat stress could cause psychological issues that cause issues in our health to arise. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has chosen to deal with his stress by watching television and overeating, also known as avoidant coping, where one uses a more direct path in order to cope, which has causes unhealthy habits that normally are out of character for them, Feldman, R. (2020), the weight gain and most likely the fatigue he feels is a result of his avoidant coping. The more he is exposed to stress, the more his immune system deteriorates, and causes a decrease in the ability to fight off infections or diseases. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen could also be in the third stage of general adaptation syndrome, which is exhaustion, as is described by Hans Selye a stress theorist, who studied the consequences of long-term stress and their effects on the body. Feldman, R. (2020). During this final stage the person’s fight to overcome the cause of the stress decreases to the point where physical damage and psychological damage can start to be seen. Feldman, R. (2020). This could be the cause of Allen’s lack of focus at work and his irritability which causes him to lash out at his wife, unintentionally. His wife has suggested that Allen remain as active as possible, which is one thing that can be used to offset the damages that can cause stress, and promote healthier habits and coping mechanisms. Feldman, R. (2020).

Conclusion

Allen has a lot of hard work ahead of him in order to fix and cope with some of the damage that has been inflicted on him because of his car accident. He suffers from depression and anxiety that severely hinders his attendance at work, a lack of self-confidence and motivation that affects his willingness to work and work hard while ignoring the preconceived notions that his co-workers have toward him. Poor coping skills, have caused his weight gain and excessive amounts of television has made him aggressive toward his wife. He has significant damage to some of the systems in the brain, most notably the limbic system, association areas of the brain, and the hippocampus, which has caused problems with memory and learning new information related to new systems at work. Damage to the amygdala is responsible for expression of emotion, and therefore has caused his aggression. His therapist has suggested cognitive restructuring and biofeedback techniques, like mirror therapy could be applied to Allen for pain management of the amputated leg. The aggression from damage to the amygdala may imply that serious personality changes are present and it is too soon to tell if he will ever be able to restore the damage done to it. In short, proper nutrition, intensive therapy, exercise, and the proper dosage of medications are the only ways that any of this damage can start to repair and it may only repair some of it. Only time will tell what is in store for Allen Whitcomb, but we all have gained a little bit more of an understanding of who Allen Whitcomb is now as a person since his unfortunate accident.

References

Feldman, R. (2020). Psychology and Your Life with P.O.W.E.R. Learning (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. Rolls ET; Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, England. (2018). Cell and Tissue Research [Cell Tissue Res] 2018 Sep; Vol. 373 (3), pp. 577-604. Berlin, New York, Springer-Verlag

Buy Me a Coffee?!

My buymeacoffee page is set up and ready to go! Thought I’d announce it in this way!

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/madelynbarQ

Share a lesson you wish you had learned earlier in life.

“[Harriet] never minded admitting she didn’t know something. So what, she thought, I could always learn.”

Louis Fitzhugh, U.S. author, Harriet the Spy (F)

A lesson I had wished I had learned earlier in my life would be

Let go, be yourself.

In hindsight, it seems obvious. Obvious that that whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Oh how much easier my existence would have been had I just had the foresight to let go of the absurd notion that there was a “right” and “wrong” way to be as a person.

How much simpler would it have been to just say,

“This is who I am, and I will not compromise my personality to fit your expectations.”

A number of circumstances come to mind.

That one time that Kaley called you “annoying” and “weird” for texting her an entire verse to a song she showed me. If I had only had the gift of hindsight I would tell my young, impressionable, and naive self that your friends aren’t required to like every single part of your personality.

Or the time that Savannah loudly proclaimed how “uncomfortable” it made her to witness a “big-hulking” black guy with a “small” white girl and how you brushed it off as if you agreed. It made me feel so small, as if white men, by design would never love me and the black men at my school I didn’t considered to be what society would deem as acceptable for a black man.

Or the time that Kaley’s mother looked at you up and down as if deciding on whether a rug would look good in her house or not. You wanted to scream at her,

“Please don’t hate me, I’m not a bad influence on your daughter I promise, despite hpw awful she treats me I look out for her.”

In the moments of scrutinization, you had hoped your eyes spoke the words you so wished you could say, but to no avail. The next time you would feel the eyes of her mother’s scrutiny wash over you in guilt at something you hadn’t done would be when Kaley decided to rip the flags off of mailboxes and was caught. The cops called your mothers and even though you hadn’t done it along with her, the questions of “why” unanswerable, and your silent indignation hiding the social suicide you just imparted upon yourself. You think,   

“Why didn’t I rip the flags off of the mailboxes, I’m such a pussy.”

Or the one time I did let go, and use the sense of humor god had given me, and I failed to realize that the liberation I was feeling in that moment was the feeling of letting go.

Victoria with her overbite, braces, and strong sense of self, showing an unwavering amount of confidence in herself gave me pause. I was of a higher social standing than her couldn’t even make myself impart the levels of humiliation I had experienced onto her.

When Meghan began to insult the bell bottoms with corduroy patches that looked like a quilt hastily thrown together, the heat of embarassment turning my cheeks pink, Victoria loudly declared, so everyone could hear,

All of these instances I should have let go, I should have just been myself. I should have taken a note out of Victoria’s playbook, and learned the lesson of authenticity that had eluded me for so long.

“I happen to LIKE your jeans Madelyn, they’re cute.”

I thought on my feet, grateful for the “out” she had just so graciously given to me and hoping I could convey a “thanks” as discreetly as possible, and looked at Meghan whose nose will never fail to remind of a pig’s, and said,

“See you guys, Victoria likes my pants.” An innoculous enough statement to ward off any further insults and (thank god) leaving Victoria unscathed and free from the threat of becoming a target.

I would have had stronger friendships, been more confident in my appearence, and maybe, just maybe, it would have saved me from ever conforming to the unrealistic expectations of the girls in my high-school.

I wish I had learned.