I used to love words; words, the meanings of words, the way words are put together, the origin of words. I mean, I guess I still love words, but I don’t really indulge in that interest anymore. I bring it up because I just realized this the other day.
I was perusing through my facebook newsfeed and a face popped up that made me cringe.When I have that kind of reaction to someone I like to kind of check in with myself to see what’s going on. Why did I have such a curdled milk reaction to this girl? What was it about her that made my stomach turn?
Then I remembered.
When I was seventeen years old I already lived away from home. I was away at school. I had been for a while. In fact, I was close to graduating. Back then I used to spend my spare time reading the dictionary. It was fascinating to me. I knew it was a little weird, but I figured what the hell? I’m not hurting anyone.
I had a roommate. She was new; not to the school, but to my room. We were friends, I thought, but I could always feel an underlying tension – like daggers pointed in my direction, but not yet thrown.
One night, later than lights-out, we were all up goofing off like girls do. Then there was a very pointed remark. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but it lead me to asking if she had some sort of problem with me. Apparently, in girl talk, it was the equivalent of “Come at me, bro!” And she unloaded all of this crap on me. The daggers were thrown and they landed with ferocity in my gut.
Her problem with me was basically that I came off as pretentious because I used “big words”. She ranted on about it for what seemed like hours, but what was probably only a few minutes. All of it about my interest in words. That, and she didn’t like the way I walked… or “strutted”. She continued to rant as she went around the room mocking the way that I walked.
Our other roommates were chuckling a little, “Oh, Liz. That’s so you!” Their observations were in no way vicious, though. She was just being mean. I was baffled that one interest of mine had sparked so much hatred in someone else. I tried to put a smile on my face and laugh at myself. At the very least, she did have my walk down. And it was pretty funny to see.
As I stared at her face in my facebook newsfeed and thought back on that night, I wished someone would have told me then what it took me years to learn…
She wasn’t mean to me because I followed an interest or walked with a wiggle. She was mean to me because she had some sort of insecurity that she projected on me.
I wasn’t fascinated with words so that I could lord knowledge over people like a weapon. It was a personal interest that I pursued. I never talked down to others for not understanding a word that I was just learning. I fumbled through sentences and used the wrong words multiple times.
As for my walk, that’s just me, being me, in my own body.
She wasn’t the only person to make fun of my walk or my fascination with words. She was just the first. I realized recently that over the years my interest waned and my wiggle had faded.
Her criticism might not have had anything to do with me, but I took it in like it did; her criticism and every negative comment from anyone else that followed. I have to take the blame for that. I let the words change me over time. But you know what?
It’s about damn time I let it go.
This is me letting it go. And I’m going to get my wiggle back.
And I think I’ll go out and buy myself a shiny new dictionary.