Tuesday 10 September 2013

Underneath it all...

... they are no different.

That's one of the most important things I have learned in life. Who are they?
Okay, let's start at the beginning. Which is Blogtember's topic of the day: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn.

Eleanor, I wish I had known that as a child.
I used to be a moderately to advanced insecure person. Growing up, my parents had an (un)healthy respect for doctors, lawyers, professors - in short, everybody they considered to be superior to them. They felt inferior, and we kids saw that and adopted the same behavior. 

I really loved elementary school, but I remember putting the teachers on a pedestal that was so high that they were basically like gods to me. They could do no wrong in my mind, and I believed them more than my parents.
Because they were teachers and therefore smarter than us, right?

That attitude continued throughout child- and teenage-hood: I was intimidated by the "cool kids", boys, and - still - authoritative figures: policemen, politicians, and anybody else I thought smarter than me (i.e. a lot of people).

Once I was about 17 it did change for the better because the "cool kids" at school inexplicably took me into their ranks and I started dating one of the popular guys.
I know, so high school musical, right?

But then, at the tender age of 23, I started my relationship with a much older, experienced, intelligent man. A man who is interested in politics and history, understands how airplanes fly (I don't think I will ever understand that one), and knows an impressive amount of Latin plant names. Who has been my husband for the last 9 years.

He doesn't fit into any of my parent's neat little pigeon holes: a farmer's son, who owns a landscaping business - totally acceptable, within our own limits, good old middle class. That fits just fine. But his friends?
Amongst them: lawyers, a pilot, teachers, a couple doctors, more lawyers - how can that be?
My parent's neatly laid-out system of the different classes can't compute that properly.

I never have or do feel inferior to my husband. That would be a very unhealthy relationship! No way.

But I remember being terrified about going to parties with him when I was 23 years old.
I felt SO inferior. There were all these smart, accomplished people, with impressive jobs, expensive cars, and lots of money - and there was me, not speaking the language properly, with no job (impressive or not), not really giving a hoot about politicians and subsequently not knowing most of their names.
One particularly horrifying evening we were all sitting in a circle, at least 10 people, chatting (they talked, I was determinedly quiet), when this guy (who's wife was a model with the longest legs I have ever seen) all of a sudden turns to me, looks me in the eye, and asks, unnecessarily loudly (and in a challenging tone, in my opinion): "So Miriam, why did you come to Canada? What do you do here?"
Everybody stopped talking and looked at me. I think they wanted to be polite and maybe felt bad for the young, shy girl who hadn't opened her mouth once;  but to me, it sounded like an accusation.
I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: "To live with Richard." (My now-husband.)

Some laughed, others took up their conversation where they had left off, and the moment was gone.

But I agonized about what I had said for a long, long time. Did I sound stupid? Do they all think I'm beneath them? Am I not good enough?

A few months went by, I learned the language better, started to feel a bit more confident - and then the next party invite came.
Again, I was pretty quiet in the beginning, just observing.

And all of a sudden, I had an epiphany. These people are no different from me! They talk about TV shows, like to get drunk, make stupid jokes, have dreams and goals, some of them unattainable to them. They gossip, and plot, and have insecurities; some are caring and generous, others are petty and cheap.
It doesn't matter where and for how long they went to school.

I have no idea where this sudden insight came from. It literally hit me. How liberating! I started talking then, making a tentative joke, teasing some of them, talking about a movie with somebody else - and it felt totally natural.

That revelation has changed my life. Maybe not in a big, monumental way - but in a small, very important one. It helps me daily in my job where I work (sometimes closely) with doctors.
I feel comfortable in my skin with who I am, in no way better or worse than anybody else.
You said it Aibileen Clark!



  1. My fiancée is fourteen years older than me and I used to feel the same as you. It doesn't bother me anymore, I had that same moment when I thought I was no different. My partner knows the Latin names for plants too! :-)

    1. Haha that's too funny! I guess it's pretty useless information knowing those Latin names, we are not any worse off for not knowing them :)

  2. I'm so glad you found your comfort zone and realized you are right there with them. I try to remember that people got where they are because of the choices they made, not because they are better or smarter, and just because you didn't make those choices doesn't mean you couldn't have rocked it if you had. It's so much nicer feeling comfortable in your own skin though. :)

  3. I am glad that you finally realized that we are all different but equal. It can be a challenge to accept that for sure.

  4. I love what you said here. I think that probably all of us, whether we even realize it or not, have all felt this way at some point. I know that I felt intimidated by people "above" me for a long time. I still let it get to me sometimes, as a matter of fact. I'm so glad that you finally feel comfortable in your own skin!! :)

  5. This is so great. I read an article once that struck a chord with me, that said something along these same lines--that underneath it all, every human likes and desires the same things. Good food to eat. A comfortable place to sleep. To feel accepted and praised by others. To love and be loved. At the end of the day, we aren't really all that different!

  6. I still feel intimidated by people who seem superior to me, in terms of qualification or just by their attitude. That's something I need to get over. I think I've gotten better at it; I just need to tell myself that all these people are just like everyone else, which is true :)

  7. I was born in a country where respect is a huge thing. We're always expected to address our "superiors" with either "sir/ma'am/doctor". And yes, they tend to be placed on a pedestal too, and a lot of them act like they deserve it. I even had a teacher once that kept saying to the class, "You are no better than the bottom of my feet!" Okay, weird translation, but you get the idea she was trying to say - to 8 year olds!

    So coming to New Zealand where people actually feel uncomfortable if you call them with a title was such a shock. I didn't know how to address my university professors! I was expected to call them by their first name!? What!?!?!? Even one that has a doctorate? Goodness!

    I'm glad you had that realisation. I only wish that people who think they're better than everyone else could have the same epiphany one day.


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