This post was written a year ago. I remembered it because of a conversation I recently had with someone. I am reposting it today because I realised everything I said in it still holds true.
I would offer decent explanations for the thoughts that cross my mind, if I had them. If I could do that, I would probably come up with better explanations for the things I find myself doing, but I can’t do that either. So I will just look for the closest scapegoat to blame it on, but I seriously doubt that it will be sufficient.
My current blame-it-on-him is a nice (not) dude, who speaks with an accent, plants ideas of malicious things I could to the office bully, and continually makes me second guess myself every step of the way. I am glad for that. Glad that I have someone who forces me to re-examine myself, my goals, my choices, my ambitions, even my whole outlook. I am glad that I am not comfortable right now. It means that I know what I need, what I want, where I want to go and my reasons for all that. Someday, I might find a measure of comfort, but this man will be a constant reminder that there is always a reason to improve on who you are.
11 years ago, I was a 17 year old kid, straight out of high school, with half dust stars in my eyes. I knew I was going to be a writer and an editor for a large publication. To get there was the path through university education and challenges that I was sure I could overcome with no effort; just the same way I had managed to remain a top grade student through most of my schooling years.
One thing I never counted on was that the heartache of my pubescent years would be overcome by hormones, and I would fall in love, with a man, nonetheless. Oh, go ahead and speculate. This one I’ll catch and explain.
You see, when I was 9 years old, one man did something that made me hate all the men except for my brother, and later my therapist a wizened old man I adored with all my heart. All along until I tuned 17, I could not see how in the whole world I could get to like or even draw close to anyone of that gender. In fact, I started reading lesbian material in secret because somehow I figured that I’d have to find a companion for friendship, and maybe sex. I figured that could only be with a girl. But back then, my blame-it-on-him was my therapist Khaled.
Khaled was the one who made me re-examine myself, question what I thought I wanted. He was by far the most liberal man I had ever known. In his eyes, I did not see disapproval. He was not my therapist anymore. He had become a father figure. I knew that no matter what choices I made, he would still be there. So I knew that if I discovered my identity and sexual orientation to be anything other than the norm, the accepted, he would still be my best friend. I never doubted that no matter what, I could count on him to hold my hand as I defined and redefined myself.
So when I went to him and told him that I was in love, with a man, a much older man, one I very obviously couldn’t have, Khaled was there for me. I’ve had the chance to listen to a 17 year old gush about a boy she is crazy about, so I can imagine what Khaled must have been feeling and thinking then. He was patient, enough to take me back to our earlier discussion about my identity, and to make me carefully think about what I was feeling.
The man, I know you want to know. He was 29 years old when I was 17 years old. All the girls in the neighbourhood single, not so single and very not single always fell head over heels, with his brother. The brother was tall, dark and handsome, with a grin that made the said girls swoon, and devilish attitude that made him break hearts all over the village. I would easily have gotten over him. But no, I went over the fence and fell in love with the other guy.
The man, he was just about my height, I was tall at 17. He was quiet, and if you didn’t look carefully you would never see the passion and the humor in his eyes. I looked. He cared about people, he was careful to show respect where it was merited and concern where it was needed. I would watch with my teeth biting at my lower inner lip as he stopped his car to check if the old lady who lived down North Beach Road was alright (turns out she took those really long walks to stay fit). I would watch as he listened to and answered the kids who asked him about his great big motorbike and then offered to help one of them who had serious trouble with his Math. He asked how I was doing whenever I was coming up to all those major exams we endured in school.
I fell upside down, inside out.If he ever noticed me, I doubt that he did beyond the friendly neighbour/family friend level; he never let me see it. He wouldn’t have. He was a man of honor. He would never have gotten involved with a teenager still trying to find her way.
It was tough for me, and I know that I didn’t do a very good job of hiding my feelings for him. Maybe all the other questions hanging in my mind forced me to curb myself from throwing myself all over him. Now, that would have been a painful memory indeed.I was soon distracted from the infatuation, the only one I ever had in my teens, by the death of my brother when I was 19.
When I was 21, I fell seriously ill with a condition the doctors took a while before they diagnosed Fibromyalgia with acute hormonal disturbances (It has now been rediagnosed to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). When I was 24 I almost married a man who just never quite reached up to my dream man’s standards.
Recently I wrote an article about the highlights of pain in my life, and someone wrote to me with ‘sympathy for the bad luck in my life.’ Here is my response.Everything that has happened in my life, and everything that has not, is a firm reminder that I am alive and that I have the chance to rediscover myself, to achieve my goals and make a difference in someone else’s life.
Those of you, who know me, know that Khaled died last year. For some reason, his death has sent me on a quest to rediscovering my childhood. Everything, my reactions to life, my pursuits right now, my career ambitions, are focused on finding that core I lost 18 years ago.There are times, when I have seriously doubted myself, when I have thought myself too needy, too dependent on validation, too much of a coward.
That is where the current blame-it-on-him comes in. He has shown me that it alright to doubt yourself once in a while, that a strongly independent person can be needing validation once in a while, and that fear is a normal part of being alive.
Today I proudly declare that I am 28 going on 12. Being here is making me pause to enjoy the good things in life and to focus my efforts at developing my skills in creating learning and entertaining material that children will enjoy for as long as they are children.I refuse to be drawn into petty rivalries that can only be devised by adults who have found themselves inadequate and try to cover up all that by trying to bring down everyone around them. I stand up here, refusing to compare myself with anyone, because I know that right now, I am where I need to be to get where I am going.
I will walk past the downtown pub, because I would rather be as far away from the Tusker you are all looking forward to downing on Furahiday. It is not because I am a snobby kill joy country bum, yeah part of that sentence is right. It is just because I love beer but it doesn’t mix very well with my meds. Besides I have a date with five and six year old kids from my neighbourhood who are coming over for a sleepover so we can discuss the children’s book I am working on. We will play games, eat ice-cream, and watch Shrek, Madagascar and the old animated Tintin collection I finally got. Then we will talk about the book.
At exactly 9.06pm, blame-it-on-him will call, I will unload today’s events on him, he will most likely chastise me for not keeping a promise, and I will smile, because today is one more day I am alive.
P.S. No, I am not yet over the guy I fell in love with 11 years ago. That is why I am writing this. The thing is, I have changed and maybe he has grown old. But if he shows up at my door tomorrow morning, I will promptly faint with joy.
© Juliet Maruru 2010 www.jmaruru.wordpress.com