Updated on April 14, 2016
I’m very self-aware. People tell me this all the time (so much so that this statement has lost some of its power).
And it’s great—I know who I am and why I am that way. However, lately I’ve been thinking…and questioning…and I’m not sure if who I am currently is who I was created to be.
I’m sorry Holden Caulfield…I think I’m a phony.
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A few days ago, I had to get out. The house was empty and I couldn’t sit in my small room, continuing to compete in a staring contest with the sad beige walls that encapsulated me. Impulsively, I grabbed my computer, sandals, and coat, and headed out to the large backyard—the backyard I had yet to spend time in since arriving here two and half months ago.
I found a sunny spot, slipped off my sandals and sprawled out on the grass. I didn’t care if my clothes got a bit dirty or if bugs dared to crawl on me—the more life I was able to encounter, the better. As the sunbeams shot down and covered my entire being, I felt more at peace than I had in recent months.
Lying outside in late November, I thought back to Guatemala.
* * * * * * * *
Over the course of my life, I’ve been called quiet more times than I can count. I would wait until yet another person placed that heavy label on me—a label that felt like a death sentence. While early on I was always ready to rebuke that name, as time passed, I grew tired of defending myself. Instead, I would half-smile and slowly nod, thinking: You have no idea what “quiet” is… if you only saw me this time last year…
It almost became a game—how many times can one person be called quiet? I vowed I would not…could not…be called quiet. Quite the task, considering I was in Central America—a land known for the vibrant passion of its inhabitants.
Upon meeting my host for the month in Guatemala, I realized just how hard this task would be. He was a character to say the least. He was vocal, gregarious, and exuberant. There was no way I could escape the month without that label being once again dumped on me.
I still remember the day—I was getting into the car to go to a distant school to teach about self-esteem (believe me—I completely get the irony of this). Insisting it would be “good for me,” my team forced me to sit in the front seat. Anxious, I made small talk with our host, and apologized for my quietness, suggesting perhaps someone else sit beside him on the return trip. Instead of agreeing with me as I expected him to, he took a hold of my gaze and looked at me incredulously, stating: “You’re not quiet.”
“You’re not quiet?”
I had been waiting my entire life to hear those very words, and when someone—someone as loud as this man nonetheless—finally spoke them to me, I couldn’t believe them.
* * * * * * * *
But now under the Georgia sun, seven months later, I heard this man’s words reverberate through my entire being. Rising louder and louder each time: “You’re not quiet.” “You’re not quiet.” Almost immediately, before I could fully soak them in, lies flooded my mind. The lies attempted to once again silence me (as they had done most of my life), and challenged these words that so clearly rang in my ears.
But as booming as the lies were, my host’s words still hung like a weight in my mind. And they remained suspended—the next day, and the day after that. I couldn’t shake them. As much as I tried to convince myself that I was “Danica, the Quiet One,” the good listener who carefully considers her words before speaking, there was no way I was going to put myself back in that box.
Because while I may seem reserved, I am so much more than that—I am highly interested in learning about others, but don’t like to waste my breath. I am bold. I have a voice. And I’m not afraid to share my [often dissenting] opinions.
And the truth is, I have always been those things. Always. In college, I simply allowed (yes, allowed) that side of myself to die because I grew tired of fighting myself. And this same thing happened on the race—I placed myself in the background and claimed misnomers over myself because of fear and exhaustion. With each excuse, with each “I’m just quiet,” I was denying Truth. And as a result, I began to live a lie.
You see—from kindergarten through senior year of high school, I was a Girl Scout (let me stop you here and correct some misconceptions about Girl Scouts—no, we do not spend our meetings just sewing, baking and crafting. Let’s be clear—I am no “domestic goddess.” And yes, we do much more than sell cookies). We did however tie-dye everything from bags to sheets to beach towels to clothing. We did become experts at learning the ins and outs of the cookie-selling business, so much so that we traveled to Baltimore MD, Salem MA, Savannah GA, and Disneyworld—all on cookie profits. And we did spend hundreds of hours each year volunteering in our local community among the youth, the elderly and the marginalized to “help make the world a better place.”
During my years in Scouting, I took every opportunity to not only serve, but to lead. I had no problem stepping up, organizing, and speaking at workshops where the content included everything from safety, to camping, to understanding and appreciating different cultures. I know it may be hard to believe, but I had no problem doing the necessary legwork to plan events, obtain venues, and deliver eloquent and informative presentations.
I also had no problem freely sharing my ideas with my troop. I didn’t question my leadership skills or even my influence. Instead, I understood the gifts that God had given me and fully embraced them (depending on who you ask, I may or may not have been a bit abrasive). My years in Scouting were some of the best of my life, because during them, I knew I was doing exactly what I was made to do: delegate, encourage, and serve.
* * * * * * * *
While I highly (perhaps too much so) value authenticity, in recent years, I have unknowingly become a “phony.” I was so concerned with what other people thought of me that, not wanting to disappoint them, I willingly placed myself in the box they had specifically created for me. In so doing, I lost my voice—a voice that I knew had great power…a voice that needed be spoken…a voice that MUST be heard…a voice that is a gift from God.
So I’m sorry. I apologize to all of you who have spent time with me over the past five years….because that person you saw—that person you lived with—isn’t me. Perhaps some parts were, but certainly not as a composite.
I’m so very sorry that you’ve had to work twice as hard (let’s be real, probably more like 10 times as hard) to get to know me and force me out of my “shell” (now you know—it’s not really a shell).
I’m sorry for shunning responsibility in each of the roles I’ve had, instead, claiming that I was made to be a “tag-along” (if I wasn’t listening to Truth, there’s really no way you could have convinced me otherwise, no matter how hard you tried).
And most of all, I’m sorry for not speaking when I should have and for not fulfilling the task God put me on this Earth to accomplish (I have learned that not speaking can have quite negative consequences).
My eyes have been opened. He has reminded me of who I am. There’s no going back.
Excuses are not acceptable. Habit? Fear? Nope. Try again.
I would hate for you to come to the end of your life, only to realize that you’ve lived a lie (yes, it’s a harsh reality).
So, reader, don’t be like me. Stop questioning. Stop settling. Step up and out of your comfort zone.