Wednesday 11 December 2013

Grown up.

My grandma always said: "Miriam is a late bloomer."
Don't you know it, she was right.

Because it is only now, at 34 years of age, that I truly start to feel like a grown-up. The kind that isn't afraid of people. Who doesn't agree to do things for fear that by saying no, they might not like her any more. The kind of adult who knows who she is and where her place is in life.
And you know what? It feels good. It is liberating! I love being in my thirties. Being young is totally overrated in my opinion.
At least it was for me. I was a huge bundle of insecurities, all the way from small child until - well, not too long ago.

As a kid I was incredibly shy. With my parents owning a store it was inevitable that customers would want to talk to me. I hated it. Don't look at me. Don't talk to me. I want to be invisible.
Approximately one year pre-stutter.
At about 4 years I went through a phase where I stuttered. My parents were worried, but back in the early 80s, in a small German village in the middle of nowhere, parents didn't drag their kids to child psychologists. They hoped I would grow out of it, and luckily, I did.
It got better when I started elementary school. I was a good student, made friends, and for a few years, I felt almost normal.
But the fear was always there. The worry that if I misbehaved, I would disappoint people and they wouldn't like me.

Since school was going well, I projected my fears onto piano lessons. My piano teacher was a formidable lady, and she scared me a little bit. She did disapproval really well. When you hadn't practiced enough, she would scold. But on the other hand, when you did well, her praise was effusive and over the top. She would write little comments under the piece she liked: "Superb!!" "Wonderful!!!" "Fantastic!!!!!" Always lots of exclamation marks. And I needed those comments. Craved the approval.
My musical talent is mediocre at best, so I had to work hard. And I did.  But it wasn't passion for music that fuelled it, but fear of not being liked. Not a nice motivation.

Can you imagine what sort of teenager an insecure child becomes? Yup, you guessed it: An incredibly self-conscious girl who is once again afraid to speak (this time to boys), hates the way she looks, and now fights a constant battle of rebellious teenager versus the innate need to please.

I started getting acne on my forehead when I was about 14. Back then I had bangs, which were a blessing and a curse: Blessing because they hid the pimples on my forehead, curse because they kept aggravating them.
14 and awkward
In order to cover them up I started experimenting with foundation. But I was so ashamed of having bad skin, and tried to portray the illusion of a flawless complexion, that I hid the make-up in my room. Yes, I didn't want my parents or sister to know that I put foundation on. How crazy is that?? First, even a blind person could spot it from a distance, because I caked it on and it didn't always fully match my skin tone. Second, my family doesn't have a problem with make-up whatsoever. In fact, my mom encouraged me to wear mascara and lip gloss, and lamented the fact that I did so only sporadically. (Some things never change.)

So here I was in my teens, hiding half my face beneath my hair, hiding my butt under long shirts (I hated my bubble butt and craved a flat boy-butt), trying to hide my insecurities about talking to boys. I would get so tongue-tied around them that I was afraid if I did try to speak, I would stutter or sound stupid.

Surprisingly, there were boys that were interested in me. And that's all I needed to know. If I found out a boy likes me, then I liked him too, no questions asked. That whole craving-for-approval thing was the driving force in my life.
That, and fear. Fear of not being liked. Of not being good enough.

There were a few times in my life when I was brave. A stronger power than myself took over and I made a decision based not on fear but on something else. Love? Instinct? Recklessness? I don't really know. 
But those were always the best decisions. 

Coming to Canada to live with Richard - definitely the scariest, biggest and best decision of my life. 

Going back to school here - not as big, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared. 

Admitting that I have depression, seeking help and openly talking about it - the second biggest decision of my life.

Making the conscious choice of not having kids of my own - that was another huge one for me. Often I felt it would be easier just having one to appease the people around me. Be considered "normal". Be the way society expects you to be. 
But it is not the right choice for me, and I'm proud for being mature enough now to stand by it. Without feeling defensive. That is a very recent development, and was one of the signs for me that made me realize: "Hey, I'm growing up! I make real adult decisions, based on what's right for me, not right for other people." 

The last "proof for my adulthood" came last weekend. You see, as wonderful as my hubby is, he does have his downsides, and one of them is gift-giving. He doesn't do well in that department - half the time he doesn't have one. December was always a difficult month for our relationship because of my birthday and Christmas, and his shortcomings in gift-giving.
I don't want you to get the wrong impression: He is a generous and loving person and has given me some amazing gifts over the years when he knows specifically what I want. But he can't do the vague just-going-out-and-finding-a-surprise present. 

Anyways, our past 9 (!) Decembers were accompanied by disappointment, tension and fights. I would get my hopes up every year that he will do something spectacular. Even though I know it's not his strong suit and by no means a reflection of his love for me, I would do it anyway. So I basically set myself up for disappointment, and that's what I got.
Some years were better than others, but at some point I would find a reason to pick a fight.
Real mature, huh?

Needless to say, December has not been a favourite of mine for a long time.

Until now.
And here it is, my "aha"-moment! I have finally, finally realized that birthdays and Christmas and all the other "special occasions" are not about the presents, or the "perfect" day, or a fairytale fantasy. They are about family, and spending time with your loved ones, and being grateful for what you have.
(And about twinkly lights and hot apple cider and cookies and sparkle everywhere!)

It sounds real dumb that I'm just realizing it now, I know. I told you grandma was right, I am a late bloomer!
Of course I always knew it at some level, but I didn't really get it. Didn't fully understand it at some deeper level if you know what I mean.
And this year, I have.

Peace on earth, indeed.

Love, mature Miriam
(Ma-Miriam? Matu-Mi? Maybe not that mature after all.)


  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I agree that your 30's are so much better then the 20's. As you go along the next couple of years, there may be more of these Ah-Ha moments. When I realize them, each time I say something to myself about being an adult "now" too.

    1. They are, aren't they? I would have never believed it, and was really down about turning 30 a few years ago.
      To all you worshippers of youth out there: Don't fear getting older! It's awesome.


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