I’ve had the beginnings of this blog post sitting in my “draft” folder for at least a month. I think there’s something inherently terrifying about writing about myself, and my thoughts. It’s vulnerable in a way that posting a recipe can’t ever be.
Last month, as a bit of an early birthday present, we went and saw The Mountain Goats (one of my very favorite bands) live. I’d never seen them before, and to be honest hadn’t really been listening to a lot of their music recently. But to me, they’ll always be important as they served as the soundtrack to the first few years of my relationship with Nick; the perfect blend of our two tastes in music: catchy melodies but with really truthful, gritty (and often humorous) lyrics.
Midway through the set they played a song about high school called "You were cool", which I hadn’t heard in a long time as it was never released on an album. It gave me goosebumps to hear it again, and the unshakable feeling that I should listen very closely to the lyrics, and internalize them.
Truth is, I’ve been thinking a lot about high school recently. Probably because this summer marks the 10 year anniversary of my graduation. And while thinking about the past can be pretty pointless, I also find it really helpful to look back every once in a while to better see my trajectory, and hopefully gain a little perspective about where I’ve come from, so to speak.
In particular, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this notion that we never really see ourselves like others see us. And if we did, most of us would probably think we were pretty great. Right after I graduated from high school, I ran into the son of one of my parent’s friends at a coffee shop. We didn’t really know each other, but he said something to me that I still remember and think about; he said “my friends and I always thought you were so cool” (spoiler: we became friends, and though we live in different cities he’s still someone I admire a ridiculous amount).
The irony, of course, being that in no way did I feel so cool in high school. I kept mostly to myself, spent hours upon hours in the printmaking classroom (surprise!) and was pretty socially awkward. But there’s something so valuable about hearing things like that, and the exercise of trying to see oneself objectively.
I bet most people in high school were admired by someone they didn’t realize, maybe even someone they didn’t know at all. It’s too bad that we often hear these affirmations a bit too late (“oh man, I had such a crush on you back then”) or not at all.
And then of course, it all comes full circle. Nothing has changed in that regard. Even as adults, though we’ve mostly transcended our most graceless years and hopefully have some semblance of who we are or at least who we strive to be, we’re unable to fully appreciate just how far we’ve really come, just how great we really are. We’re unable to see that there must be people out there who think we’re talented, or intelligent, or funny. Or valuable and worthy of admiration in a million other ways.
Looking back, I’m quite proud of who I was in high school. I was unapologetically myself from a really young age, and I think that’s unusual and brave. I’m sure most people thought I was pretty strange (and possibly intimidating) but there are far worse things to be. And today, I don’t think a ton has changed. I’ve become more at ease with the idea of living life on my own terms; things get easier with time.
For me, the moral of this story is to listen.
listen when people email my business to tell me they love the things that I make.
listen when friends/family tell me that they want to spend time with me, that I am worthy of their time.
listen when my boss tells me she is grateful for the work I pour so much of myself into.
listen when a stranger compliments me out of the blue.
They are all trying to tell me something I’ve never really allowed myself to hear (but desperately wanted to); they’re all saying “girl, you are cooler than you know”. And I don’t want to realize this in 10 years, I want to realize this now.