I was a “gifted” little kid. The kind who got to get out of class to sit in a room with other gifted kids and do special gifted things. I was a little snob.
I was a people pleasing little kid. The kind who never got corrected by a teacher and rarely by a parent. I was held up as an ideal for other young people to follow. Lest you think this a ridiculous amount of hyperbole, when I was in third grade a child in class who seemed always in trouble for one thing or another was having a moment outside the class with the teacher. He was crying, “You always get after me for everything! Daja never even gets corrected about anything! She’s your favorite.”
The teacher replied, “Daja does get in trouble sometimes. Everyone does.” I was called into the conversation and the teacher said, “Daja, please tell John that you have gotten in trouble at school in the past.”
I just stared at her with my incredulous 3rd grade gifted face. “No, I haven’t.”
She replied, ”OK, maybe not this year yet. But you have gotten corrected or in trouble sometime while you were in school.”
“No, never.” I said.
The boy cried even more and the teacher dismissed my unhelpful little self to go back to my desk. I wish I could go back to that moment and show even an ounce of empathy instead of the smug superiority I felt in that moment. If he became a villain, no doubt this was part of his origin story.
I was a perfect teenager, the kind that wouldn’t dream of rocking the boat or rebelling in any form. And yes, lest you think that a ridiculous amount of hyperbole again, a man at church with four teenagers told them he was going to make a bracelet that said WWDD—substituting Daja for Jesus, because he wanted his girls to be like me. I laughed of course—inwardly feeling rather proud that I could be held up as such a standard.
Following this trend, I was an ideal wife. Reading my older blog posts make me cringe so hard. I had all the answers to what you were doing wrong and how you could do it as well as I was. Nevermind that authentically telling the truth, not looking at things through rose-colored glasses and practicing good boundaries were not things I understood nor practiced. Walking on egg shells, people pleasing, and ignoring my intuition: those were the things at which I was really excelling.
Me keeping up appearances and perfection has died hard in my adult years. But, I hope and pray I am actually a better person—or at the very least on my way to being a better person. Mind you this may not look like being a better person, because now I am far more likely to let you down or do something you don’t like without apology. But it is actually me being a better person without the pretense. You can trust the person I am now far more than you could 20 years ago.Continue reading