"Eughhh. What's your secret, anyway??" The question was a half exasperated half admiring one, posed to me by one of the several youngsters I have adopted as siblings. At this point in the conversation I had a mouth full of California burger ((something I would have shuddered at even a year and a half ago)) and I am fairly sure I cocked my head to the right like a dog does when you say something it doesn't understand. And I didn't understand. What was what secret? I don't have secrets anymore. Nothing that isn't open for public speculation ((and, often, ridicule)). My new little sister, asked again. Laughing in a happy sort of frustration with me, "How do you do it? You're so calm and confident and, like, nothing phases you. You're beautiful. You don't even try and you're, like, perfect. I wish I had even half of your personality." I do believe I actually snorted avacado, bun, burger, and melted swiss cheese into my nose from the back of my throat at this point. Not a pretty spectacle - let me tell you.
Let us rewind.
I'm not going to go into the rollercoaster that was my life or even give you a summary, I might have even 6 months ago, but I'm not that person anymore. If you want details you will have to ask me about them in person at a later date. Who I was, what I went through, it doesn't define me anymore. Not even close. But I can tell you that the words "calm," "confident," and "perfect" were not in my vocabulary. I was like every other teenage girl. I was insecure with poor self image and self esteem, a constantly diminishing self-worth, second guessing every move I made and every move anyone else made. I masked most of these things by being loud. I shot for the position of "little sister" or "the cute one" because the standards were lower and I didn't think I would ever live up to all the people telling me I had "unlimited potential" or that I was "so intelligent" or "beautiful." I didn't want to be left out or left behind, and I certainly didn't want anyone to know I didn't want to be left out or left behind.
Back to the future.
It came as a shock, not so much to hear those words from her, but to realize that for the first time in my life? I believed them too. I was finally someone worth looking up to, I had earned my label as a Big Sister. Now now, I am not perfect. And I hope to never be. Perfect would be boring. But I am probably what I would call calm and confident. Life doesn't phase me. I am beautiful and I don't try ((in the way that my little sister meant)). So, you're all probably wondering, what did I say in response?
Two ((or something)) days later.
I am sitting an arm chair in a living room that is not my own, conversing far too late in the evening with two more young ladies I have adopted as little sisters. One says she thinks they need to take a page out of the book that is Malia in returning to High School this year. I laugh. It's funny to think I am now a book. It's even funnier because I am actually picturing myself as a thick, leatherbound book - you know, like in The Pagemaster! Anyhow, they continue to sing my praises in the same manner my other little sister had several days earlier and I can feel my head cocking every so slightly to the right again. What is it with these kids? I will go ahead and be self promoting enough to say I'm a pretty darn awesome human being, but so are these girls in front of me. The are certainly more put together than I was at their age. Indeed, they are more put together that I was probably a year ago ((I would say even 3 months ago, but the truth is I was putting the pieces together then and I don't think these two are there yet)).
Talking to my friend and boss earlier today, actually, I was discussing my disbelief that these girls were so adament in being what they thought they needed to be. I mentioned that in all the "Self Help" books for teenagers in the world, not one of them says "Oi! Just freaking BE!" My boss laughed and said "You know, this Spring I was looking for one of those books for you." I had to laugh and thought to myself, "Yah, Malia. Don't get too cocky in telling people to just be. It's difficult! Remember what a hard time you yourself had with it!"
So what is my dirty little secret? I'll tell you.
I don't have one.
I had to suffer and flounder and groan and moan and fall for all the tricks of this world just like everyone else. How did I get to be here then? What adversity did I finally conquer and how did I accomplish that? What success brought me to this point? Was it money, sex, or the right color lipgloss? When did I become this calm, confident, beautiful, intelligent, nearly perfect ((HA)) human being? Err... your guess is as good as mine. But I can tell you I didn't do it in "5 Easy Steps!" or even 100 - and it sure as rain wasn't easy. You're probably thinking, "BS, she's just holding out so the rest of us will suffer! Beauty equals pain or whatever." The latter is true, the former is not. But I can tell you my guestimate.
Firstly, I started to stop caring about what I looked like. And ohmygracious that was a long and tedious process. It's not that I stopped taking showers or caring about my appearance. It's just that I stopped comparing what I looked like to a magazine or a model or a movie star. I stopped looking like anyone else because I suddenly looked like me. I took off all the makeup, I wore what I thought was comfortable instead of what was trendy, and I stopped caring about the attentions of men. Ladies, if a guy buys a drink in a bar? It is not because he likes your personality. And I know your excuse "Catch him with your looks then win him with your heart" ??? Please do not dumb yourself down to actually believing that. A guy who is actually worth it is one you feel comfortable leaving the house in slippers, sweatpants, his jacket, without makeup, and without a shower. - but that is an entirely different rant.
Secondly, although I suppose it should be first, I reprioritized. I took my life and shoved it into one bag, which happened long before the looks thing, but I'm labeling it Two of my "5-Easy Steps." And you don't have to shove your life into a bag, but the concept is pure. Get rid of your CRAP. I have this rule, I have to throw something out for everything I purchase. Sure, I liked that TShirt, but I just bought this one and I like it better. If only a molecule better. You do not need 25 pairs of shoes, 18 pairs of jeans, 94 tshirts, and so much lingerie from Victoria's Secret you need two drawers. I don't care who you are - you don't. But reprioritizing is more complex than throwing out the v-neck you never wear. Me? I cut off all my hair. Two feet of beautiful flowing brunette locks, gone in 60 seconds. You don't have to cut your hair, for me it was about vainity. My hair was something I cherished to an unhealthy degree. Get rid of your pride, your vainity, and your crap. That's step two.
Next, I forced myself to do little things for me. I started taking care of the person in the mirror. Saying things like "Oh hi, self. You look beautiful today." Or giving myself a mental punch in the throat whenever I passed a mirror or looked at a picture and thought I was fat or awkward or just plain ugly. I still do it. Mental punches in the throat are useful. Telling yourself you are worth it? Also useful, despite the cliche and tackiness of it. You're laughing, aren't you? I'm sending you a mental punch in the throat for that, just so you know. Little things, are what make the bigger things. Appreciate the grass beneath your feet. The sky is awfully blue, isn't it? And hey, check that sunset! It sounds dopey, and it is. But the truth is, you probably don't appreciate yourself or the world around you. What do you like to do? Go do it. Once a day, once a week, once a month - just do it, Nike! Me? I like to write ((and annoy you people with new blog posts)). I also like to play the piano, so I touch piano keys whenever I remember to. I love to read, so I am reading ((like 9 books a week, frightening)). Mostly, it is a practice thing. You have to practice taking time for you. As Americans and citizens of developed countries? We suck at this. Royally. We work and we party and then we capitalize on both. We hate our jobs but work relentless hours and ridiculous overtime to make a buck that we can spend on drinking until we black out or travelling to places we can drop large sums of cash on to see the way the "other half" lives - gee, fun. And if you're not doing either of those things, you're saving the money in a high interest rate account to use when you turn 55 and social security doles out ((if SS is still around)), so you can finally relax. Dude, what is wrong with that picture? Everything.
Lastly, personally, I talk to God and encourage everyone else to do the same. Grace is an amazing thing. But what you believe is between you and Him. I'm always here to hash it out with believers and nonbelievers alike, but I can't tell the general public why God is amazing. It's something that comes on an individual level. Just know, he is. Amazing, that is.
Other than that? I did nothing. So I guess, it's really only 4-Easy Steps. Maybe I should write that book. What it boils down to is this: Just be. You don't need materialism to define you. You don't need vainity to define you. You don't need others to define you. Just be. Let yourself be. And if you don't understand that, you're not ready to. But I can tell you, you're in for a long and hard run. You don't need to travel the world. You don't need to pray or give a million different ways. You don't need to seek answers from the rest of the world. I'm sure all those things helped, the first certainly helped me. But the truth is that it's you. You know how to just be you. Maybe not on the surface because it's so clouded by all the other crap, but you do know. You are you. So just be you.
My dirty little secret, is just to be.