I Think, Therefore I Am Neurotic

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I was born at the age of zero. Like all babies, my age had no reflection on my purity. Despite having no choice in the matter, every baby is permanently tainted by its parents preceding and following birth. The lucky ones are mostly affected for the better. My prenatal adventure consisted of a mess of vitamins, anticipation, and a veracious appetite for growth that I wielded on my mother’s abdomen. I should feel guilty about dominating her uterus for almost a year, but hey—it’s not like the whole fiasco was my idea. After nine months of thorough planning, I cunningly infiltrated the naked, vulnerable world. But as the child born after two polar-opposite older siblings, nothing I did surprised my experienced parents.

Growing up, my mother bore much more damage from her parents than she ever exerted on her children. Her parents’ sudden and shockingly decisive divorce left her mother and siblings debilitated. As if to make up for her family’s slump, my mother was proactive and well-behaved. Straight out of college she efficiently married my father: her not-so-damaged, intelligent, quirky high school sweetheart. I will always be thankful that my parents divorced when I was too young to have started dissecting my ever-present happiness. My emotional immaturity at the time of their separation saved me from having any memories to helplessly dwell upon in the future.

The more I discover that my parents are real people, the less I want to know. I am old enough that their guidance has little long-term effect anymore, and I love that now I can make personal decisions, validly disagree, and keep secrets. But with my new perception comes the heavy burden that I truly comprehend their stresses and afflictions. This understanding makes me more anxious than anything I ever feel in myself. In spite of my ability to brush off my occasional angst, I never feel more powerless to stop it than when I see my parents’ regrets surface.

Despite being divorced, I pride myself on the steady relationships I have with my friends. My best friends today are largely the same as from my childhood. I made additional friendships throughout the years, but the friends I have had since childhood have mostly proven to be my strongest foundation. Our overwhelmingly Jewish group of girls initiated because of a shared culture, but through the years we began to shape each others’ identities.

I recently realized how horribly considerate my allies are of my oddities. They rarely get frustrated when I have difficulty focusing. My b****es have always sufficed what I lack in attention skills, which is probably what left me unprepared to handle the impatient-discontented-murderous-mobsters I fraternize with now. Either my b****es spoiled me for the future, or I just perpetually suck at paying attention.
Similar to the ambiguity of this distractibility dilemma, I find it hard to differentiate between whether my idiosyncrasies are self-inflicted or imposed by other people. The constants in my life have been my red hair, green eyes, and persistent immersion in my own unique if not bizarre thoughts, and that is all I know. I am outwardly cynical but inwardly optimistic. I am visibly normal but perceivably, lovably, insane. I love myself, but fear I love myself too much. These factors are seeds of the gigantic orchard that is my neuroticism.

My middle school years were exceedingly the most painful of my life. I started fifth grade with the remnants of my elementary school persona. I was the funny, smart little redhead filled with the wandering thoughts most teachers found charming. Once junior high hit me like a train, leaving me crippled and confused, I became chronically self-conscious. Before this point in my life, I had no concerns about my appearance, unlike the many girls my age who started worrying about their weight as early as third grade. In Roosevelt Middle School, the general population found the persona I held dear to be unacceptable. I was too eccentric and wacky, and the army of River Forest eleven-year-olds did not like it. Roosevelt girls wore Abercrombie and Hollister, and the preteens whose parents would not buy the fifty dollar t-shirts that trendiness demanded were implicitly deemed unworthy of the attention of the upper-crust. I am sure this lack of integration is what led me to become more fearful of talking to people and more self-conscious of what I said. I developed into an awkward preteen, who became an awkward teenager. Nothing I said was ever cool, and I felt like there was a code amongst popular people that I did not understand.

During the summer before my freshman year of high school, I decided my low self-esteem was not irreversible. I cannot blame my peers for my feelings of isolation, because in the words of the fabulous Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My lack of confidence was a choice, and I was aware that I had taken no measures in the past four years to stop it. My goals before high school were to stop feeling like an unattractive slob and to stop succumbing to shyness. My basic commandment (and I still have this piece of paper in my desk) was that if I was feeling shy or unhappy to: “PRETEND YOU DON’T!” I made this rule up, and it completely worked. Within a month of school I transformed. Instead of weird, I was quirky and witty. Instead of being self-conscious, I flaunted my oddities. Once again I embraced the persona I loved as the funny, smart little redhead filled with the wandering thoughts that most teachers found charming. It was this process of self-acceptance that made me happy again.
I worry that in the future I will lose the contentment I forced myself to achieve. I remind myself that my feelings are entirely my choice, and then I choose calm. I truly believe I was one of the lucky ones.





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EmilyLovesMolly said...
Jan. 27, 2009 at 10:25 pm
Molly, this was really good and I am not just saying that because I'm your friend. I've always known you're a talented writer, but nonetheless, I was quite impressed.
 
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