"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Power of Unexpected Praise, or, Memoirs of a Nobody

Last Friday sucked. I was pretty sure that my coworkers hated me, or at least, pretty sure that they only tolerated me after two unremarkable comments sent my self-esteem into a tailspin. I was pretty sure that I had only just realized after 26 years that I was both red-headed and a step-child; that I was, perhaps, the stupidest ex-English-teacher-turned-assistant on the planet.

I have a hard time making new friends, but it's not out of my lack of desire for them. I desperately want to connect with people, but often feel deflated because my lack of comfort in social situations makes me look like I'm on the receiving end of an enema. I got in my car feeling like a rejected middle-schooler ready for a mini pity party when my friend Emily called me. Or, at least, I thought it was Emily.

My caller ID lied to me, it was actually Emily's mother--a charming lady that I'd never met. But I knew her well because of Emily, and the upturned corner of her smiling mouth whenever she uttered the phrase "my mother." I knew what kind of woman she was by the respect and the stunning more-strawberry-than-blond hair mirrored by my dear friend.

Earlier that day I emailed Emily a copy of my poems for her to share with her mother, as she requested. I did not expect that twelve hours later, I would be sitting in a Target parking lot weeping as a women I'd never met told me how wonderful my writing was for her. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her, for Emily's mother (who I still haven't met in person).

I often feel helmed in by series of losing titles, losing statistics: I am a credit score, a weight, a bank statement, one unknown writer in a sea of drowning writers. Emily's mother asked me if I'd ever considered writing "my story" and I almost laughed, "I'm a nobody, no one wants to read about that." "We're all nobodys," she said.

Her unexpected praise and her wisdom have stayed with me all week. We're all nobodys. Somehow it's a comforting thought to me. It makes the pen and the workplace seem less intimidating. I will begin to pen the memoir of a nobody, and perhaps nobody will read it; and that's okay with me.


  1. Beautiful! Please keep writing and this nobody will read it!
    -Sharon Jenson

  2. you have a new fan :)

  3. You'll always be a somebody to me! Your biggest fan!

  4. I love your writing! I haven't read a poem of yours yet, but you had my attention throughout your post. It was engaging, funny, real, and relatable. I understand the wanting to have friends but being somewhat constipated at initiation. Requirments I should be labled with: Coffee, alone time, creativity outlet, not be woken earlier than 8:30 on a weekend!"

  5. I love it that two of the wonderful people in my life got to meet... my Mom and my Christeene! It will be a friendship for the ages.

  6. Remember Christine, most of those people we think are "somebodies" started out as nobodies, just like all of us, and they probably feel strange that we think they are something more. We are all on this incredible journey--the human experience--and when you write YOU TAKE US ALONG WITH YOU. We get to see your process--you fall down, you get up, and you fall down again---and we cheer as you get up again!!! You allow us to see your struggle and your victories and we can relate; it help us to understand ourselves. I thank God for giving you this extraordinary gift. And I thank you for sharing your gift with nobodies and somebodies alike, because let's face it, we're all in this together!

    I love you sweetie and I am going to follow you all the way until you become a "somebody" too! But know this--you are somebody to me right now!