Friday, March 19, 2010

bark louder, please.

I'm a small, yappy dog.

Correction: I'm like a small, yappy dog. They always want to be heard because they're so damn small.

I've always been the youngest in my family on both sides. Before my cousin was born in 2001, I was the baby of the family. It had its ups and downs - People adored me, but I never felt like they expected too much out of me, nor have many of them realized that I'm no longer five-years-old.

My least favorite memories of being the youngest were any moments spent in LA with my older sister and two older cousins. I always felt like the three of them had some special club that I was not allowed to join. I'd always been shy and reserved ever since starting to lose my hair; it caused me to withdraw greatly from any type of social interaction. Losing my hair also sent me into a long phase of questioning and confusion: Why did outside appearances matter so much? Thoughts of "What if I didn't want to look like somebody else?" led to "What if I didn't like the same things everyone else liked?" or "What if I didn't find that as funny as everyone else did?" How far were people willing to go to conform? As I looked at my young, balding reflection in the bathroom mirror, I could only tell myself that I wasn't interested in conforming.

When I was around my cousins and sister together, I felt insignificantly small. The things they liked weren't of particular interest to me, and I didn't understand why my sister changed so much when we were around them. She seemed different from the sister I knew when we would be at home in Sacramento and I didn't like it all. Maybe it was a conformity issue, maybe it wasn't - I don't know. But I know that it seemed easier for them to ignore me than to try and include me.

In those instances, I'd spend a lot of time sitting with the "grown-ups" as they had conversations I couldn't really understand. I would get bored and want attention, but was raised to never demand it. I hated the children in grocery stores or restaurants who screamed and cried for no reason other than to be heard. I wanted to be heard, but I didn't want to be obnoxious.

I think, though, that I found my own methods of screaming and crying. Every action I do, I do 110%. It's as if I'm compensating for the years I spent under an invisibility cloak. I'm a workaholic because I think I'm trying to prove to my younger self that she won't spend her whole life as insignificant or small. I'm a workaholic because I can deal with isolation. I don't know if I necessarily enjoy it, but I don't mind it.

Words don't always come easily to me, but I speak when I can and hope to God that someone is listening. If I don't have anything to say, though, I normally stay quiet - a result of the way I was raised, I suppose. If someone talks over me or ignores me, I generally let it go without a fight because I'm not as assertive as I'd like to be.

It's hard to stand out at a school where you're part of the majority. I risk blending in too much to the point of anonymity. I want to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons. I need to find a way to prove (to both the world and to myself) that I can do anything and can be heard. I don't need to blend in. I really don't.

Unless there are the days I want to blend in. In those cases, I just keep telling myself what Wayne told me on my last day at Albertsons: "You are special and you are unique. In a historical context, the world would never be the same if you had not been born into it." --And that's true for everyone, whether you're visible or in hiding. I'm not a timid child anymore, I've learned how to speak up and go for what I want. I may not always succeed, but I think my youthful self would be in awe.

So okay, maybe I'm not yappy. But even if I am, I hope I'm a damn cute puppy.

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