In the fourth grade I hung around a small group of girls led by the two prettiest girls in my class, I'll call them the Heathers. While I was in the crowd with them, I was third-string on a good day. First, I was already overweight—not by much, but it didn't take much back then. Second, I liked weird things like holding the class python or the visiting tarantula, playing with my little ponies (we were too old by then), and listening to classic rock. Lame! Lame! Lame! They suffered me, I think, because I could draw and had good ideas for Projects. Collaborative collages, sing-a-longs, impromptu talent shows—I was the idea girl.
But I was never cool.
This manifested itself most often by exclusion from the cadre's network of informal “clubs” that would form and dissolve on a weekly or even daily basis. The Heathers would decide to wear their tiny little Levi's jean jackets one day, and suddenly there would be a Jean Jacket club. After begging and pleading, my mom begrudgingly bought me one. I proudly wore it to school only to learn that as an off-brand, it “didn't count.” They had a club for girls with purple clothes, but, it turns out, my thrift store sweatshirt was “old” purple. I mean, who knows if the right jacket or purple culottes even existed for those little girls hell-bent on excluding lest they be excluded? We were cutthroat, even at nine years old. I tried to affect a who-gives-a-shit attitude, but I never fooled anyone. I went home and shoved that loser coat into the furthest reaches of my closet and only wore it when my mother made me. She paid good money for it, after all. But I wouldn't wear it to school.
Ever since I can remember, my biggest fear has been mediocrity.* I just can't stand the thought of being third-string anything in my life anymore. I can do better than that.
While there were a lot of contributing factors to my lay-off, this is one of them: I had a nice responsible, normal job and I fought it tooth and nail once I lost interest in being excellent at it. I became a stubborn, rock-kicking, eye-rolling child at every turn because the title of best was out of my reach. I mean, I put it out of my reach, but let's not get mired in details. Ultimately, I was bored and boredom made me difficult. I deserved to get kicked out of the IT club. While this has given me the opportunity to right some wrong turns that I have made in my life (good), it has also exposed me to the possibility of grander and more public failures (badbadbad).
I found out today that I did not win an essay contest that I entered last fall, when all the boldest steps toward my new life were being made. I have a stack of no thank-yous and a list of other contests I haven't won, but this time the essay was all about my life changing process. I put together some thoughts on this last hard, weird, fun, and fucked-up year. And I wrote a good essay about it. But apparently, not a great one. And right now I am fighting every instinct to give up.
It's childish and unproductive, I know this, but I am really disappointed. Ever since I let strangers into my house in Austin and moved in with my parents it has been one rejection slip after another, and I would just like a SHRED of evidence in support of this crazy-ass notion. Just one thing that is good enough for the Heather Editors out there—is that too much to ask?
*My second biggest fear now is gaining back all the weight I've lost. NOTE: I am going to spare us all the self-deprecating rant about my fears being so self-centric, but know it's rattling around in the brain box with the rest of the misfit toys.