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