July 26th 2013
Story originally written and experienced: February 5th 2008
It was strange.
There I was.
Laying in my dorm room. Door locked. Late-night conversations floating outside my door. As the chill, February air coasted through the open window >> between my hair and
my naked legs.
As I laid there perfectly still.
Arms crossed behind my head.
Hair s c a t t e r e d on my pillow.
Legs propped up against my w
– Illuminated and shadowed by the street lamps located not so far away. Witnessing the light fLiCkEr off my body every time a stranger would pass them by.
It was strange.
Strange that I didn’t want to do anything else.
And strange that I was doing nothing at all.
I remember locking the door. Telling my friends that I was going to go to sleep. Knowing that was a lie. And saying it anyway. Only because trading in a night of social and academic priorities for
And nothing else.
Was something I never knew I needed.
Penny wasn’t home.
And I had the room to myself.
So I poured myself a
glass of water.
And thought entirely too much.
Recycling both the undesirable thoughts and desirable ones. Wondering how the girl named Olive who tells great jokes, and smiles so well was suddenly sitting in a shadowed room – alone. Feeling less than great. And less than well.
But only because.
Somewhere in the unintentional day, she realized how heavily outside opinions and outside circumstances really did weigh on her self-esteem.
And how that was never supposed to happen.
But how it really did.
I remember earlier that day I was having dinner with a few friends at a dining hall across the way. And someone at the table asked me amidst romantic storytelling and sexual confessions that slid from
one side of the table >>>>> to the other
If I considered myself a pretty person.
I asked them why. And they told me no reason. And then I asked them why again and they told me.
“I’ve just noticed that anytime anyone ever compliments you on your looks. You make a joke. Name another friend with a better face. And never really say thanks. I guess I just always thought it was strange.”
I told them I was bad at taking compliments.
And they said okay.
And I guess as I was laying in my bed this night. Thinking about thoughts both undesirable and desirable. That I realized:
Maybe the reason I was so bad at taking physical compliments, wasn’t because I was crazy, ignorant or rude.
But rather because.
My last romantic endeavor ended in him saying:
“I know we’ve dated for a long time. And I think you’re really great.
I’m going to date your best friend instead.
She’s blonde and beautiful. And I just can’t resist.”
And he did.
And they lived happily ever after.
Leaving me with self-esteem hangover and a blossoming sense of humor, tucked in my side pocket.
Just incase I needed a defense mechanism the next time I felt second best.
Which as it turns out.
Became entirely too handy.
I took sip of my water. And kept thinking.
About the time I was 5 years old. And my mom told me that she was going to sign me up for 3 sports and 2 instruments. “And to choose one of each, Olive. Because I’m going to put you in both.” And when I asked her why, she told me
“Because I want you to feel special at something. And I want you to do well at it. So just in case you ever feel less than great, you’ll have something that can be your own accomplishment.
And no one else’s.
And also because.
I want you to know what it feels like to be proud of yourself. Because everyone deserves to feel that way.”
So I did gymnastics for 17 years. And I played the piano too. I won a lot of awards. And I lost just as many. But I remember thinking about that when Peter said to me one day after our walk from Math class – How he was involved in many clubs. And how his grades were fantastic. How he aced the test I just failed. And was interning at the company of my dreams. And I remember feeling really small. And feeling kind of lost.
And feeling very mediocre.
And calling my mom that night and asking her if she would mail me my sheet music, please.
“I’m just in the mood to play, that’s all.”
My thoughts were interrupted by overwhelming laughter coming outside of my window.
Some boys. And some girls. I finally moved from my bed >>> and watched them as they jumped in puddles in the rain. They were happy. And they were soaked.
And it flashed me back to the time it was pouring rain outside on a Sunday. And my friend and I sprinted through the water-drenched streets – desperately seeking shelter inside of an apartment lobby. Where the lights were out. And the doorman was gone. And the only 2 ingredients we had in that very moment were conversation and time.
So we talked for 3 hours.
I sat on one side of the wall.
And he sat on the other.
And in that 3 hours he told me a secret he had never told a single soul.
And in the end he looked at me and said “I can’t believe I just told you that…thank you, Olive…thank you for listening…Please don’t tell anyone.”
And I told him that I never would.
And he told me I was a remarkable person. That he had never met a person who helped him the way I did in that moment. Who made him feel like less of a monster for what he did when he was 11 years old.
And he felt good again. And he felt happy.
And I felt really good about myself that day. And it made me really happy too.
And I guess as I laid there. With my empty glass of water. Serenaded by the laughter outside my window. Watching their shadows reflect off my body.
I got to thinking.
I got to thinking a lot.
How there are a lot of opinions about everything that we say and everything that we do. Opinions of strangers, friends, family and more. How every article that we read, and every advice that we hear, and every quote that gets instagrammed tells us to “Believe in yourself!” “Don’t pay attention to what other people think of you!” “Be true to your heart!” “Love yourself no matter what!”
But the thing is.
That’s really hard.
Sometimes it feels impossible.
But only because.
We as humans are inevitably fueled, gratified and valued by a pool of opinions that come in the form of
Compliments. Insults. Attention. And more.
We drained the whole damn pool
And measured our self-worth.
By just one.
One master opinion. And that’s it.
In your life, whether romantic, professional, personal or more. You’ll encounter and converse with a lot of different people.
Some people who will make you feel average.
And others that make you feel the exact definition of it.
And some might even make you feel a little bit
But every once in a great while you’ll find someone in your life that makes you feel absolutely spectacular.
Tells you the thing you deserve to hear.
Commending you for the things you do.
And how wonderful would it be.
If that one person you found?
What if you were the person who looked at yourself every day and said “This shirt looks pretty damn great on me”
Do a good deed and say to yourself “I’m a quality person.”
Fail at something and say “Better luck next time self, you gave it your best shot.”
Reassurance from others is absolutely wonderful. But it’s wonderfully addicting and wonderfully unavailable 24 hours a day.
Friends can take shifts to reassure you of your greatness. And an attractive person at the bar can up your boost your self-esteem with just.one. exceptional look.
But I can’t depend on that all the time. And neither can you.
I can’t always keep my humor in my side pocket, or keep sheet music under my bed anytime I’m feeling a little less special. I can’t depend on a rainy day for uplifting conversation or rely on an exceptional look to measure my god-given body and my god-given face.
But what I can do.
Is take my damn side.
Because imagine if the one opinion you ever really abided by.
Was completely your own.
And imagine if that opinion said.
“I’ve got one damn body and one damn mind. And I couldn’t be more proud of it.”
And suddenly you’re not waiting, relying and agreeing with the opinions of others.
They’re agreeing with you.