By Becky Reno
I sat on the brown shag carpet, surrounded by wood paneling, my legs tucked underneath me. Across from me was my neighbor, three years my senior, and between us- a monopoly board. It was a summer when we spent nearly every day together either playing games that would span days, or running around the neighborhood, rushing back to our respective houses when the streetlights came on. I was ten.
“I like to pretend like my friends are watching” she said innocently enough, gesturing towards the large picture window. Something about this struck me as intriguing. It turned the ordinary into a performance. It made me scrutinize even the most mundane details to see how they would be perceived. It shifted my value into the hands of others, and I had to be worthy enough to earn it back from them.
I wish I could go back and shield that little girl -me- from this moment. I’m sure it’s not that simple, and it wouldn’t have stuck if there weren’t a thousand other factors that caused that seismic shift, but this is where I trace the origins. This is when I split and not only became the actor playing the game, but also the observer casting judgment.
I spent the next couple of decades moving through life this way, always looking from the outside in. By no means was I perfect, as my (still recovering) parents can attest, but I was always aware of how my deviance was perceived. This has all played out as a pendulum, swinging towards rebellious deviance or towards feigned normalcy. My pendulum has spent much of my adult life in the latter camp, and I’m growing ever-fearful it’ll get stuck.
I don’t know exactly how to just start living without worrying about how it looks. I do know, though, that it’s imperative. I want to start living life from the inside out instead of the outside in. I’m thinking this is going to be the task that defines my mid-thirties, and if I can achieve it, it will free me going forward. Tossing that grenade in the peanut gallery is no small task, but luckily I’ve got some people in my life willing to help me pull out the pin.
Let me know if you have any tips, or you’re with me in this journey. I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be easy, but I’m optimistic enough to think it’s possible.