I believe in the principles of minimalism, but am a tender-hearted pack rat who obsesses about what will happen if I don’t have a slip of paper from 1989. I could easily tip into a hoarder if I let myself go.
I’m moving in the next few months, so I’m trying to take the any opportunities I can to clean and /or clear out my stuff to make the packing and moving easier. I know myself, and if I let it happen, I’d easily be sitting in the middle of a room having an emotional breakdown because I have procrastinated and have to move in a week’s time.
While cleaning out my stuff this weekend, I found a folder of ‘achievements’. These range from camp awards to diplomas to various invitations, and they’re all kept in a Lisa Frank folder my brother bought me as a present at a school book fair in the early 90s.
The first set, neglected invites, recognized my potential as a young child to do good things in a great way. I was nominated by my teachers and volunteer coordinators to go to multiple leadership conferences in DC and New York. I remember getting those nominations and being truly shocked that they thought I could do something like that. I was part of a peer-to-peer leadership council that did mediation for students, and I distinctly remember the coordinator of that after school group inquiring about why I wasn’t pursuing one of the conferences. I was terrified, but I remember hearing her disappointment that I wasn’t going. To be fair, though, I was pretty much terrified of everything at that age. I could barely look someone in the eye while talking to them when I graduated high school and I would have been eaten alive at a high intensity, super motivated high school conference.
This, unfortunately, has been fairly indicative of my story. I have trouble seeing in myself the potential that others see in me. Unless I have done something over and over again, I don’t believe that I can achieve it. Perhaps I’m just a defeatist who occasionally wears a smile. It’s amazing (and shocking) that I have come this far in life and can see my huge strides in my self-awareness and still struggle with this battle. When I mention what I’m going to school for, nearly everyone who knows me speaks to the clear match, and how training for that type of work will be a fantastic fit. My response is often an awkward attempt at being gracious and then a mental backlash to deflect the encouragement, compliments, or general good vibes. I feel that I have fooled everyone and one day they’ll realize I’m still that same terribly shy 14 year old and that I have no business trying to help others be who they are supposed to be.
The other set of ‘achievements’ were accolades that boast not of my skill, but of my personhood. I’m not talented at things that people get awards for, but I’m the clearly the MOST MANNERLY. No joke, I’ve got about four ribbons and a Facebook poll from back in the day when that’s what we did on Facebook that says that my manners cannot be topped, yo. Other top awards include: Kindest, Best Sport, Friendliest, and Best Attitude. THIS is my life. People see right through me, and at the core I really do just want to be kind.
Upon finding this set of depilated ribbons, papers, and awards I was a little bummed. What would my life have been if I had gone to D.C. for just one summer during high school, if I had enough gumption and confidence to know that it might not have been a perfect fit, but that I would make it? Why am I not good at things that other people are good at it? (And why did my third grade self have to have such a good attitude about losing in kickball?) Why do I have these same doubts about seminary, and why does it take nearly constant effort to try to overcome them?
Then, I realized that what a fantastic group of people my life has had. People around me have consistently believed in my goodness, talent, or ability, even when all I could experience was the consuming self-centered obsession of being self-conscious. This is such a rare and beautiful thing, I’m surprised that I just now am noting it. Even though I’m terrified of you all figuring me out (and still kind of terrified of teenagers), I know that what matters is not how I see myself or my own abilities. I’m too unkind to myself for my opinion to really matter. What matters is what you see in me and what I do with it, what I see in others and how I empower them, and how we all work to make this place better.
Also, maintaining that Most Mannerly deal is pretty important too.