I passed my Master’s Comprehensive Panel last week. While that is an exciting accomplishment on paper (and was met with much celebration from my friends), it was much more anticlimactic than I thought it would be. I passed. I had stressed and stressed and stressed over my papers, reading and re-reading them until they no longer made sense to me anymore, until finally I just turned them into my professor. One click. Sent. In my program (Masters in Communication Management) you don’t have to defend your papers. It’s not like writing a thesis. I was given 3 topics to write about to show my knowledge of the subject. I did them. I turned them in. I passed. I’m almost done completely now. Just one more very busy 10-week summer session sprint to Graduate Commencement. I’m both thrilled and terrified.
There is a very real part of me that doesn’t honestly believe I’m smart enough to have this. While I know I’m not average in my intelligence, I also don’t think I’m as smart as people seem to think I am. I Google a lot. Last year I received a departmental scholarship bestowed to Graduate students in the program who are “outstanding students”. I honestly thought at first it was a mistake, but when I verified it wasn’t, my professors said it was “their pleasure to reward such hard work.” I wish I could see whatever it is they see. There is a part of me that is curious if I’m just really good at faking it?
This neurosis goes far beyond academia. I would say it extends to almost every area of my life, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have certain gifts and talents but they seem very ordinary. They seem like the kind of thing that a lot of other people do. For example, I love to sing, but I’ve never tried to do much with it or be competitive. It’s just something I do well, but nothing more phenomenal than your average high school talent show winner type acclaim. When I was in high school my voice teacher was out for a semester on maternity leave, and I was assigned to a very accomplished tenor who taught out of his home. My grandmother paid for a 30-minute lesson, but he often asked me if I could stay longer because he loved to find random Italian arias for me to try to sing. He once stopped me mid-lesson and looked at me and said, “your voice is really phenomenal.” His wife once came into the living room area near the piano to ask if she could sit and just listen. I was always very flattered, but I also didn’t quite get what was so great about listening to my voice lesson.
I wish I could hear what they heard.
About a year ago, I wandered into a Facebook group that I thought was a Meme group. I saw a mutual friend from a common Facebook group was in it, and I figured that might be where he was getting all his savage memes. I requested to join. It was NOT memes. What ended up coming across my newsfeed from that group was a steady stream of poorly lit, badly constructed selfies from female members. Some were very risque while some were very tame. They all lacked a quality that I felt would draw a person in to it. I was curious if I could do any better. So I posted a photo and it received a HUGE response. So I posted another, and within 5 days I pretty much had a following. It was honestly overwhelming at the time. Suddenly all these people wanted to talk to me and know me. They wanted to know if I was a model. That following grew to an Instagram account with 21K followers (now deleted because apparently, Instagram does that with accounts without reason or warning), a SnapChat with 3k followers, and having strangers reach out to me constantly on the internet to tell me I’m “their ideal woman”, “dream girl”, “stunning”, and “most beautiful”. I’m not thin. I’m not young (about to be 40.) I’m not incredibly toned, and I don’t have a symmetrical face. I have bushy curly hair and lines on my forehead. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m ugly, but I live in a weird world where I’m both this ideal beauty and neurotic hot mess that needs to lose 50lbs.
I wish I could see what they see.
And really that is Aphrodite in Real Life in a nutshell. That’s how this idea occurred to me. You think of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love in all her beauty and talents, but what is she like in real life? Maybe she’s just as bewildered as me by all the attention. Maybe if you got to know her, you would see she isn’t all that you expect. Maybe some days she doesn’t want anyone to notice or see her. Maybe when she looks in the mirror she only sees the 25lbs she gained in grad school, or how her hair doesn’t look right, or maybe she just wants to crawl out of her skin and be anyone else today. I’m not perfect, so how can I be beautiful? I’m not perfect so how can I stand out? I’ve never been one to blend into a crowd, but where people tell me they see “star quality”, I see a magnification of all my imperfections–faking it until I make it, yet gripped with anxiety that I don’t really know how to make it.
There is a metaphysical shop nearby where I live and sometimes I go there to poke around. I like to look at the different herbs and crystals and candles. The owner offers different services such as tarot readings, palm readings, and reading your aura. I’m the type of person who finds those kinds of things fun, and have over the years had different readings from various strangers. Over the years there has been a common theme among their messages to me: “Learn to forgive yourself for things that were not your fault” and “Quit denying who you are in the Universe.” Last month, for fun I had my palm read and the reader again relayed to me those two messages. Like those who came before her, she told me I cannot fulfill my destiny until I learn to forgive myself and stop fighting who I am.
The thing I cannot seem to forgive myself for is losing custody of my son. It’s not my fault I tried my best to keep it from happening, but I failed. I lost the rest of his childhood because I made a mistake as a child myself and took the easy way out. I trusted a man I shouldn’t have trusted. It’s one thing for this to affect me, but the fact it has irrevocably changed my son’s life guts me. I can’t change it. It wasn’t my fault.
I don’t know how to forgive myself for that. I’m not 100% sure I deserve that forgiveness. So maybe I punish myself by rejecting all my gifts and talents because losing him is my Scarlet Letter. It feels like forgiving myself is letting me off the hook for the one thing in life I couldn’t change; the thing in my life that was the most devastating. It feels like giving myself a break is acting like what happened wasn’t that big a deal. It feels like forgiving myself is getting over it.
I don’t know who I am without that pain.
One other thing the palm reader told me before I left was to stop swallowing my words. Anyone who knows me knows I’m rarely at a loss for words. I’m also a very straightforward and verbose individual. However, I think THIS is what she meant. This blog. These words. So, I am attempting to stop swallowing my words and get them out even though they are painful at times.
Maybe if that happens, forgiveness will come.
Maybe with forgiveness, acceptance of who I am will come after that.