How you feel about you comes from how you are raised, experiences and mental focus. As a youngster I became keenly aware of certain prejudices. Not allowing this to impede my progress despite my lack of maturity at the time, I toughened up pretty quickly anyway.
What made me conjure up any memories of childhood from such a long time ago, I do not know but it happened. While sitting to dinner the other night with a dear friend I glanced down at our white table cloth, meticulous settings and sparklingly coordinated stemware. For some reason at that moment I remembered an experience I had way back when. I'll get to it.
I attended a private school thanks to my mom's hard work-and yes I did appreciate it, especially so because I knew times were tough for us but I learned much later how badly she actually struggled to make this happen for me. Anyway, at school there was an excitedly high-pitched buzz racing through the classrooms, hallways and cafeteria because of the upcoming costume party. Of course most of the other parents had personal tailors, house staff or other outlets making their children shine at the party. Since there was a $50 prize at hand which was a big deal back then, I wanted to take part so I could give the money to my mom. Some of the snooty kids made fun of me and as I was the only child of color in the entire school-including staff, it made for interesting interactions.
I had never been raised to regard one race over another as being better, more significant, so when I saw this it hurt me deeply. I never felt inferior though, and I loved this fact about myself even at that tender age. As you can guess I was the one student not having a costume and knowing my mom would not be able to afford it I would never ask. Adding to this, we were going through a lot at home with my mom working multiple jobs and I stepped into the role of young adult at a time when I should have been enjoying being a kid, so my mind wasn't exactly set to finding or making a costume when the day arrived.
My third grade teacher at the time was nice but snarky, sniffing a snide remark about me showing up without proper gear for the day. Now I've always been creative, probably from the womb as some have joked. Remembering that we had a rec room filled with props and materials for our weekly plays and breakout sessions, I had a plan. Marching across the room to another slightly smaller room, filled with vintage gems, and the trail of my teachers comment still freshly coursing through the brain, swinging the double doors out as if I were the opening act on Broadway, I spotted my solace. One of many tablecloths in many vibrant colors. Wearing glasses back then, I knew it would draw a laugh, if I pulled it off just right, even if I didn't get the top prize.
Grabbing a pair of scissors, cutting a slit across the spacing that would go over my eyes, I had an instant costume! Putting the tablecloth over my head and replacing the glasses over the crisp albeit, heavy white sheet was my version of Cousin It. For those of you who remember The Addams Family, (and yes there was an updated version a few years ago), so you may know of them, anyway I was all set. My teacher, mortified at first glance, not knowing the message I was trying to send, quickly broke out in hysterical laughter as I stated my purposeful getup was in honor of one of my favorite shows at the time.
With complete confidence and the weight of the high quality remnant over me, I said with unabashed pride, "You will never stop me!" Here I am this little person amongst people who had no idea who I was, what I felt and didn't really care, for one brief moment rallied around me. Looking into the eyes of some of the kids who had perfectly coiffed hairdos, makeup and materials I had never seen before, I stood proud. Not only did I win the top prize, the respect level changed that day. Now understand, some who were just that ignorant and wanted to keep me safely tucked under some misguided idea of what I was about-simply kept that view. But for some who had previously buckled under social peer groups, melted a little.
My shoulders rose ten feet tall that day and when my mom picked me up from school and the teacher explained what happened, I floated on air as did my mom. The real prize for me was coming into my own. I was young, not dumb and certainly not crazy. And as they all found out that day, not intimidated. Never allow anyone to make you feel as if you do not matter. Too many times individuals lacking confidence themselves try passing off this insecurity on to you. My advice to you: build the courage, keep to your morals, become a positive example and live your life.
Until next time~