Two days ago, I decided I needed my own, personal blog – separate from the fun, shocking persona of The Shirley Girls. I really thought it was so I could have a place to unload all of my most inner thoughts … mostly about other people. I thought … this is my chance! My chance to tell it all! How Anna’s way of thinking impacts me, how my mom’s lack of love has shaped me, how my dad’s – I don’t know what you would call it – has guarded me, how all these people have done things TO me…
But I’m now realizing it’s not about them. It was never about them. It was just about me. And I AM part of The Shirley Girls. I want to know, love, appreciate, not judge, full accept ME. Who am I? What do I want? I thought I knew who I was and I what I wanted. I certainly know what I don’t want – don’t I?
As I spent the last two days starting a new, private, personal blog – I began to realize wait a minute – I AM that person. The same person who laughs hysterically at Anna all day, makes crazy videos of us and puts them on Instagram, goes running and shares my journey on IG stories… that is all me, so why am I trying to separate this part of myself out?
I’ve made a decision … which for an over-thinker, like myself, is a HUGE deal!! I will not separate a piece of myself out. I am a whole person. Spirit. Mind. Body. Soul. Part of The Shirley Girls. #SpiritualNotReligious #OverLookerOfNoOne #BiggerHairIsBetterHair … it’s all me…
So here it goes…
Let’s start with who I know I am. I know I am Katie. Katie means pure in heart. And I am pure in heart. I was always a very sensitive child; an introvert, and shy. Very smart. Liked having just one or two close friends at a time. But pushed myself in high school to find my external voice. My mom was her Class President in high school and was a super extrovert. Always talking, planning some trip or get-together, was the assistant pastor at church, one of 12 children – the oldest girl. My aunt says, “Now, I know I’m out there … but your mom is on a whole other level…” I would agree.
So I aspired to be like my mom. I was starting high school, had dropped 15 pounds the spring of 8th grade running track, was past the awkward puberty years of being a little chubby with frizzy hair. Now I was taller, big hazel green eyes, a beautiful smile, perfect light skin with a hint of tan and sprinkles of freckles, and long, black, curly hair. Everyone loved my hair. Everyone still loves my hair – though now it’s long, curly blond hair.
I ran for Class President unopposed and won. My confidence was up. I proceeded to join every. single. club. there. was. known. to. man. SERIOUSLY! I joined 40+ extracurricular clubs my freshman year!! I don’t really know why I did this. In hindsight, I must have been trying to “find who I was.” But at the time, I thought the more things I could say I was a part of; maybe the more whole, and not separate and different from everyone else, I would feel.
The other thing I know for certain about me is that I’ve never felt like I belonged. To the world. To my biological family. Until I met Anna. I always felt like an outsider. It wasn’t just that I was shy and sensitive is why I felt like an outsider. Instead, I was shy and sensitive because I felt like an outsider. I constantly remember thinking I was adopted. I watched my sisters be social, have lots of friends, seem like they “fit” into this world. Other people seemed to effortlessly glide right through life. But I always felt like this world wasn’t for me, like I belonged somewhere else.
Where I fit was school. I was great, no perfect, at school. I made straight A’s from kindergarten to graduation. I was the valedictorian of my senior class. School was easy for me. I received praise and recognition from both my mom and dad for being so smart and making such great grades. They would brag about how smart I was to other families, use me as motivation to get my sisters to do even better (although they made mostly A’s and the rest B’s).
But it also was a lot of pressure. I remember resenting it sometimes. If I made an 89 on some assignment – they would get on to me and tell me, “Now, Katie; I know you can do better than that.” Actually, that was my best! It left me feeling like I always had to be the best, always had to be perfect. That’s who I was. Smart, perfect, shy, reserved, intelligent Katie.
When I was 7, my parents signed me and my two sisters up for piano lessons. My older sister is extremely outgoing, does what she wants to do, and got quite a few spankings growing up (yes; me, my sisters, and brother were spanked – we grew up in the South in a Christian household with 2 pastors in the 80’s – yes we were spanked). I got just a couple, though. I saw my big sister get them so many times that I quickly learned I’m not acting like that! No mam!
It wasn’t a surprise that my older sister only lasted a couple of months taking piano lessons. My little sister lasted longer – maybe 2 to 3 years. But eventually stopped. But me; no, I didn’t stop. Remember, “Katie, you can do better than that.” I was the piano player in our house and took lessons for at least 7 years. I practiced every single day. My dad made sure of it. But really I made sure of it. At first, it was 30 minutes a day. Then later, an hour a day. He didn’t have to make me. I just did it. No one had to make me do it. I would come home from school, watch 30 minutes or an hour of TV, and then go into the sun-room with the doors closed and practice for an hour every afternoon. Usually, by the time I was finished my mom was in the kitchen starting to make dinner.
I had a Russian (or German) piano teacher for two years when we lived in Oklahoma during 3rd and 4th grade. She got me to start competing in state competitions. I did good. I understood, and even connected, with this this white-haired, small-stature woman from Eastern Europe. She was firm and direct. I liked her. My disciplined-self connected with her.
When we came back to Georgia in 5th grade, I got a new piano teacher. She wasn’t the strong, firm, Russian one like I had before. But I liked her. I started doing state piano competitions here too. But I couldn’t fail. Once I failed, I stopped.
I’ve always had to be the best at whatever I’m doing. I MAKE myself be the best. My boss use to tell me she’s never met anyone like me… that if there’s a wall in front of me, not only does that not stop me; but that I thrive on how to overcome it. I will go under it, around it, through it; whatever I have to do – but that wall will most certainly NOT stop me from getting to what I want.
That’s why it has always rocked me to my core when I have not succeeded at something. I was 13 or 14 and froze at a piano competition, so not only did I leave the competition but I quit taking piano lessons altogehter. Why? Why did I do that? Because I wasn’t perfect. That’s why. And if I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t want to do it.
The need for inclusion, belonging, and acceptance not only caused me to join 40+ clubs in high school; it also drove me to try every sport there was known to man when I returned from Oklahoma. Between the time I was 10 to 13, I tried softball, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, and track. I hated softball; my mom made me do it because she’s good at it and thought it would “be good for me.” But I wanted to be a flowing gymnast, who was skinny, fluid, and beautiful. But I wasn’t skinny, fluid, or beautiful. Like most 10-year-old girls, I was a little chubby and awkward and weird.
So then, I tried soccer. I was fairly okay at it. I wasn’t the fastest or best, but my teammates liked me. I couldn’t believe it, actually. I spent the entire season comparing myself to the other 11-year-olds who had been playing soccer “their whole lives” and wondered why I couldn’t be as good as them. I don’t remember making friends with any of them. By the time the season ended, I knew I was quitting because I wasn’t the best at it. I still remember being quite shocked when my teammates were disappointed that I was quitting. Why were the disappointed? You mean; they actually liked me … even though I wasn’t perfect?! No mam! Not for me – I have to be perfect; so, I quit soccer.
I next tried out for basketball, then cheerleading at my middle school. This was the first time I was pursuing something at school related to sports. Before, it was through the community – so they HAD to let me participate. But here… you had to EARN the right to be a part of the group. I didn’t succeed. For either.
I didn’t mind too much about basketball. But not making cheerleading (even though I know I had no right to be a cute, petite, popular cheerleader) was devastating to me. I still remember my mom driving me to the school on Friday afternoon to see the posted sign of who made the cheerleading team after a week-long try-out. My name was not on the list. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I really, really, really wanted it to be. I wanted to be someone different. I wanted to be pretty and skinny and popular. Not just smart.
Eighth grade spring, I ran middle school track. I don’t think we had to try-out for that like we did for basketball and cheerleading. I think you just were automatically part of the track team by showing up. I liked this. I was on a sports team. They HAD to let me be on the team. And I liked it. Similar to soccer, I wasn’t the best or the fastest. But I liked it. We would run through trails behind the school every afternoon. I began to make friends with a couple of the more popular, but also rich and smart, girls who also ran track. We even carpooled a few times to practice as one girl lived right up the road from me.
But, like soccer, I didn’t continue with track. Why not? Because I wasn’t the best. I wasn’t perfect at it. The only things I had room for in my life are things I’m perfect at.