Today: Consider these questions in your Beautiful You journal: Were there moments in your life where you have felt championed? What were those experiences like and what did you learn from them?
I spend a lot of time writing about the trauma I’ve experienced in my life and the people who have hurt me. I spend probably too much time thinking about it when I’m not writing about it. It is so easy to villainize those who have hurt me as well and lump them all into a category of terrible people and to also categorize myself as a victim. Some of those who have hurt me deeply have also stepped up to the plate in major ways to champion me, their only safe and trusted way to express their love for me. Some of those people are no longer in my life, but they are a big part of why I am who I am today.
And then there are the superstars in my life who constantly encourage me, check in on me, and remind me to consider myself, my feelings, and my happiness in everything I do.
Let me start with highlighting some of the good of the people I tend to only write negatively about on here.
I wrote about this on Father’s Day on Instagram: Where my dad has never been emotionally available for me (and never will be), he has shown up in other ways in my life.
While he worked on his feet 40-55 exhausting hours a week, he still came to the majority of my Saturday morning softball games growing up. He couldn’t understand my nervousness and why I could hit the ball to the fence during practice and barely make contact with the ball during games, but he was there when I cried during softball tournaments because I felt like my failure to hit the ball let down the whole team. (I’m a very competitive person and hate to lose.) Going to my softball games was the one thing we really did together, and that was his expression of his love language of doing things for me that I didn’t really understand until recently.
My mom has championed me more in the past several years. She tells me how strong she thinks I am, how I was always stronger growing up because I was in touch with the emotions she’d been shaming into avoiding. She says she wishes she could be as outgoing, friendly, and warm as I am even in a room full of people I don’t know, and how I light up the room with my sense of humor and smile. When we watched Inside Out and I commented that I feel like I am a combination of Anger and Sadness, she said no, “you are Joy, with a little bit of Anger when it’s necessary.” She has stood up for me through the horrible bosses I’ve had over the past several years and in my marital conflicts with John. We don’t have a perfect relationship and we still fight like sisters at times, but she’s been one of my best friends.
Another person, who has been out of my life for three years now and who played a huge role in pushing me towards my potential, was my college best friend Nina. I was very shy, had a horrible fashion sense, and spent most of my time before we met sitting up all night long on my computer in my dorm room writing Backstreet Boys fan fiction, specifically a story where Nick Carter fell in love with me and we wrote songs together for his solo albums (I wrote my own song lyrics in the story too). She was very outgoing and friendly, saw a lot of potential in me, and pushed me towards it.
That takes me to one time someone I didn’t even know championed for me in a way no one ever had before. My sophomore year of college, I tried out for a talent show and sang Shania Twain’s “The Woman in Me” a cappella in a dark-ish room with several other girls and a couple of judges. Some of the other girls in the room said, “Man, she’s good,” but one of the judges, whose name I’m not sure I ever got, told me, “You are a really talented singer. I think you can win this contest.” And I was sent on to participate in the talent show.
I didn’t win, but I got a lot of applause, and after the show, that judge came up to me and said, “You were amazing. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t win. Did you hear that crowd? They loved your singing and so did I.”
No one had ever told me that before, not like that. And Nina was the one who pushed me to get on that stage in the godawful rainbow-striped sweater I wore. While I don’t think she is someone I ever want to be friends with again, her adventurous, free-spirited, creative personality burst me out of my shy, soft-spoken, southern girl shell and into the loud, vibrant, determined, outgoing woman I am today, and I am thankful for her.
And as for the rockstars who championed me and those who continue to do so today:
I’ve never had a bigger fan or a stronger advocate than my maternal grandmother June. My college degree was really her degree because she paid for it and she stayed on my ass every day until I finally walked across the stage to receive it. She encouraged my writing (but told me not to write so much sex in my stories even though those books were all she read), told me she loved listening to me sing, enabled my Backstreet Boys obsession, and told me how proud she was to have such a beautiful granddaughter like me.
She fought for me even when she knew I hadn’t told her the entire story, and she fought harder when she knew I had and she saw how broken and hurt I was by it. And when she died and I read the letters about the sassy, fun, outgoing, wild child she was as a teenager and in her twenties, I saw myself in her. She gave me such high expectations for how I should be treated by others, which is probably part of my struggles because no one else revolves their life around me like she did, haha.
Ten years ago this month, I came to Atlanta to spend the weekend visiting my friend Sia who had just moved here from Montgomery with her then-fiancé Zach. On the way home, I felt God/the Universe/something tell me to move to Atlanta too. I was in a boring, drama-filled office job, living in a boring city, still getting caught up in my parents’ post-divorce drama, not feeling great about myself, and I needed a huge change. Sia and Zach offered to let me stay with them, and I moved in November 2009 with no job, about $3K saved up from working two jobs and selling everything but what would fit in my 2005 Toyota Corolla, and what was left of my belongings in that car. For about 3 months, I slept on a mattress on their dining room floor while I looked for a full-time job.
I always call Sia my “Greek Mama” because she is half-Greek, a mom, and she always looks out for me. She’s incredibly resourceful, smart, optimistic, and bossy, and she lovingly calls me out on my bullshit because she cares about me and thinks I’m smart, talented, and deserve more than I allow myself to have.
Christina is another dear friend of mine I met through my sister-in-law Sara about 5 or 6 years ago who is also brilliant, resourceful, empathetic, funny, and who also calls me out on my shit and pushes and encourages me to be better and also not be so hard on myself. She and I have talked nearly every day since the day we met, and I would be lost without her support.
And while our marriage has really struggled for the greater part of this year, I can’t forget to mention John. While he’s not outspoken in his support of me like my mom and close friends are, he has tried to clear the path for me several times in the past years to allow me to figure out what I want to do and do it. After I supported us with an incredibly toxic job while he was in school, he told me he would support us when we moved to Chicago, which allowed me to try a few new things like work in concessions at Wrigley Field and watch the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years and work as a barista at Starbucks, two jobs where I finally got to let loose, have fun, and make friends. This support, though not always without some criticism, has continued since we’ve returned to Georgia. He has been a shoulder to cry on and to talk about what I want out of life with in the middle of the night. He doesn’t always respond to me like I wish he would, but he listens to me. He continues to tell me to figure out what I want to do and he will pay our bills (minus my car payment and credit card debt).
I really appreciate this entry from Beautiful You because it reminded me I’m not alone, to not be so hard on myself, that I am doing okay in life (sometimes even great), and the wonderful people in my life are quick to encourage me when I feel lost, hopeless, dull, and useless. I am thankful for their support and especially for them listening to me because I feel often like I talk a big game then go back to doing the same bullshit or nothing at all. Because of them, I am still here and still trying.