I didn’t really want to write this post, but on the other hand, I also felt a need to write it. By the end, I think you’ll understand why I felt like this. Now that I am writing, it feels like the right thing to do. Then again, writing always feels like the right thing to do, so I guess I shouldn’t always be so surprised by it.
When I was young going to school was like going to hell and back every day. I started going to school a year before most others in the class, so when my mother could see how I struggled, she removed me from school for one year and taught me at home. I had to go back and even though it was easier the second time, it was still horrible. I hated school. I used to love to learn when I was little, but school changed that.
When I did well in school, I did too well and was accused of cheating. Even when my mother had seen me study and do my schoolwork alone, the teachers didn’t believe her words. I don’t know what they told her, but they made it clear to me at school that I was a cheating, terrible child who couldn’t behave as I was supposed to.
If I didn’t do well, they accepted it with a smile. They told me it was who I was. They taught me my existence was pointless, because I was stupid and awkward and didn’t act like girls were supposed to. The other kids were encouraged to treat me similarly and the fact that I grew up in the countryside in predominately white area made me stand out even more – I was a socially awkward half Arabic girl with no dad. My name was strange, and I couldn’t even spell it right no matter how much they tried to teach me.
When my name had been registered it had been mis-typed and so my mother, always intending to fix it and always forgetting to get it done, taught me to spell my name as it was supposed to be spelled, not the way it was officially spelled on all my documents, and at school I was ridiculed because of it.
In the end, I started writing it the way they told me to at school because at least then they’d stop calling me stupid, I thought. They didn’t. It had already become my identity and nothing I did could change it. Years later I fixed the spelling so that it’s spelled the way it was intended and again people made fun of me. Even in my own family people still refuse to spell it the way it was originally intended. Now, most of them don’t even try to spell it right and spell in ways it was never supposed to be spelled.
I fixed the mistake, changed the spelling to what it was supposed to be, because I thought maybe I could fix the mistake that I was, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what I do. People never cared and they never will.
To this day I don’t understand why, but my teachers always got upset with me and asked me to leave the classroom. I suppose they had their reasons, but they never explained it to me and never expected anything but bad behaviour from me.
It was so strange to me, because I fought so hard to be “the good girl”. I always ended up making the teacher mad and I would get sent outside to wait in the hallway. Either class would end or the teacher would call me inside again – I never knew what came first.
The hallways outside the classrooms always had all these coats hanging. I grew up in a Nordic country, as you may know, so the coats were often huge, and I remember hiding in between the many coats. I remember wishing that they would swallow me up leaving nothing of me behind. Left behind would only be the long, empty hallway with coats.
Obviously, I stopped trying to do well in school. I accepted the fact that I was stupid.
There was something else, however, a feeling I only recognize know years later. I was angry. I was so angry that I was always accused of cheating when I never did. I was angry that they all acted like I had no right to be me. I was angry and I had this desire inside of me to prove myself, to justify my existence to all of them and it became almost like an obsession to me.
I have tried so many things in life, anything from ballet to girl scouts, different kinds of sports, drama school, music, art… well, I have tried pretty much anything I came across. I wasn’t searching for my passion; I was searching for something I could get good at.
It didn’t matter if it made me happy or sad, I just needed to find something I could do. Something that could justify my existence. When I realised that I couldn’t improve or had no special talent for something, I moved on to the next thing. Even if I loved it, I moved on to the next thing. What did it matter that I loved it if I had no talent for it? What did happiness matter if it could not justify my existence to all those people who had refused to accept me?
I didn’t tell myself this, however, I told myself that if only I found what made me truly happy it would also be something I would eventually become good at. I thought I was searching for a passion, a purpose, a dream, when in reality, the search was impossible – I was looking for something that wasn’t real.
I used this need to justify my existence to drive me forward even when all I wanted was to die. In those moments, I fought harder than ever before to survive because I wouldn’t allow them to be right. I would find a way to prove to all those who ridiculed me, all those who bullied and abused me, all those who hated me and hurt me, those who nearly took my life and those who stole from me things that can never be returned – I would prove to them that they were wrong about me. I would show them just how wrong they were and justify my existence.
When changing interests and work didn’t make me good at anything, I would pressure myself to continue doing one thing thinking that in time I would get better. I didn’t need to be the best, just good enough to justify my existence.
I studied Japanese language for many years, yet I never seem to improve beyond a certain level. I have been struggling with the N2 level since 2016 and nothing changes no matter how much time and effort I dedicate to it. I am today no better than when I left Japan in the summer of 2016.
I have spent innumerable hours on improving my language skills and I just can’t seem to push past my current level. So, in time, I started to give up. If I can find nothing that I can do, if I have no talents whatsoever, if I can’t even improve when I dedicate years to it, then how would I ever prove that they were wrong about me?
You know, a lot of those people probably don’t even remember me. They never cared back then, they wouldn’t care now, and they won’t care in the future. The only one who ever cared about any of it was me.
I spent my whole life trying to justify my existence to others, thinking that they were wrong and that I had a right to exist, when the one who really needed justification was me.
I was wrong. I thought I fought for this because I believed in myself, but I was wrong. I never believed it, but I was afraid. I was afraid they might be right.
I felt ugly. I felt stupid. I felt lonely. I felt like a misfit. I didn’t feel like I didn’t have a right to exist, but I could be wrong.
I was terrified of that. What if I was wrong?
That’s probably the reason I didn’t realise all of this until now. It’s not that I believed them, but that I was afraid they were right in their judgement of me.
It came out nowhere, this realisation that it was me I had tried to convince all along and unexpectedly, it didn’t make me sad or happy. I don’t feel like I wasted my life or happy some imaginary burden is gone. All I felt was numb.
I still feel sort of numb, but I am also starting to feel less tense. I feel like a sense of calm is slowly spreading through my spirit.
It brings me to the end of this post and now, maybe, you get why I both needed to write this, but also why I didn’t want to. Do you see where I’m going with all this, do you see what I am left with after this realisation?
I am left with… “What now?”
My whole life was in pursuit of the impossible, because it was never about anyone else. It was never about finding happiness, never about finding peace and most certainly never about gaining a skill for the joy of learning.
It was just about gaining a skill to prove I am not useless and justify my life. My whole life has changed in a second, because when I realised it was me who needed the justification, my whole purpose of living disappeared.
I made justification my purpose, but I don’t feel a need to prove it to myself. I thought I needed them to know, but I don’t even care. The thing that pushed me forward my whole life is now gone – almost like it never existed in the first place. Which, in a way, it never did. It was all my head.
I am alive and I have every right to be alive. I am even happy to be alive.
So, again, I can only ask: “What am I supposed to do now?”