I read a quote this week (which I am totally going to paraphrase because it’s late and I don’t feel like possibly crashing my elderly iPhone again trying to Google a random quote): “Be the person your younger self needed.”
Seemed like good advice, & bearing that in mind, I had an opportunity to (hopefully) be that person.
A couple (with a teenage daughter in tow) was looking at three different pieces in my booth, and had trouble deciding which one or ones they wanted. While they were wandering around I noticed that the teenage girl reminded me of my younger self. She was a bit awkward in her own skin, which most teenagers are, but there was a depth to the awkwardness that suggested that – like I was at her age – she is too ______ to fit in perfectly as she is. That blank space represents whatever word it needs to, as we have all been too short, too fat, too weird, too tall, too artsy, too sporty… Too something to fit in as we are, but somehow I think the idea that we are the only awkward being on the planet is mostly a hallmark of the teenage years. Sometime in adulthood – at least with most of the adults I am now privileged to call my friends – we have realized that our greatest strengths lie in the parts that our teenage selves got ridiculed for. However, the journey in finding that out seems to be fraught with land mines and circumstances that, while they make you stronger and forge you into the indomitable amaze-a-balls person you are now, they leave scars and reminders of hard battles won.
The parents of said girl finally chose a piece and while I was boxing it up I got near to (but not within) the girl’s personal space bubble. Now, to explain – I have a super good sense of my body and I’m exceptionally aware of the space I take up in a 14 foot wide booth- it’s part of the psychology of selling. In order to move around people without disturbing their browsing in a space of that size requires a good sense of both space and self. So, while I was not in danger of bumping into her, every highly introverted person I know requires a larger than what is generally considered “normal” personal space.
She apologized when I stepped into that space, and backed up. I straightened up and enquired, “Did I just hear you apologize for the space that your beautiful person is taking up? Unacceptable. You take up the space you take up, & you, my dear, should never apologize for that. I was the one who bumped into your space. T’wasnt the other way ’round.”
Her dad interjected at this point, and while pointing at me said to his daughter, “Listen to her. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying to you too?”
I kept eye contact with the girl, and asked, “So Miss introvert- d’ya have any idea why I’m saying what I did? Why you should quit apologizing for being whom and what and where you are?” Her head shook “no.” “Because,” I replied. “Fifteen years ago, I was you. I apologized for my work and for my existence both, and once I knew I wasn’t going to fit into the corporate market the way that so many other people seem to fit into it seamlessly, I had to find a way out and learn how to make a living, and a job, and happiness out of this art thing which requires me to be myself. And be true to myself, which means not apologizing for the wonderful quirky creature that I am when it’s completely unwarranted. I see that same fire and potential in you.”
Tears in her eyes, the girl nodded. I asked if I could give her a hug. She accepted said hug, they picked up their box to go and were headed up the path to the exit when I hailed her again. I dug into my pouch, apologized for being a complete magpie, (which I assured them is part of the quirky artist bit) because the thing I was looking for didn’t put itself into my hand immediately. But when I found the glass stone I knew was there, covered with an obligatory dusting of glitter, (I do work at a Ren Faire) I handed it to her and held her hand open while I spoke.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked.
Confused, she answered shyly, “A glass rock?”
“Well, yes. ‘Tis that.” I answer. “But d’ya know what it’s called, this rock?”
She shook her head in the negative.
“It’s name is ‘courage’ and it will help you on your path figuring out who you were meant to be.”
And as silent tears streamed down her cheeks, I closed her fingers around it and walked back to my booth.