Let's just be honest...
As a teenager I was "dramatic"
Us creative types can be overly so when we want to be
I had my bouts of hysterical blindness and "mental" breakdowns perfectly timed to for effect and overall situational advantage.
…I was doing research for my academy award winning movie...that I wrote, directed, starred in, cast, produced and distributed.
I am sooooo multi-talented
But as I got older and life showed me pretty much who was in control of this B flick, I toned down the dramatics.
I internalized them so to speak because I didn't know exactly who I was or what I was doing with my life.
On the outside I was a carefree exceptionally intelligent woman who cared for her children and moved about the world with a shyness and insecurity that can only be found in black and white movies and Harlequin Romance novels.
I was winging this bitch....and not very well mind you
Self-discovery is something that takes a lot of time if you've always been told how dramatic you are, you’re ungrateful, flighty, and a host of other synonyms that I choose to forget. Because all that people ever see is the drama, the pretense, the curtain going up when you come into a room.
Now don't get me wrong I wasn't a complete basket case yet but I had all the props already in place.
I was never quite comfortable with myself....
I was a little too tall
a little too smart
a little too heavy
a little too timid
a little too shy
a little too quirky
a little too scared of my shadow
a little too weird
a little too everything
I always laughed AFTER everyone else finished
I always worried if I'd say the wrong things at the wrong time
the only time I found relief from all this "oddness" was when I wrote
I wrote beautiful poetry (for a kid)
in my world I was classy, seductive and international
James Bond’s smarter prettier more exciting younger sister
Too bad I couldn't live in there forever.
I didn’t fit anywhere and I didn’t know how to be myself because I didn’t know who I was, what I liked and where I wanted to go
As I kid, I learned how to imitate other people
Mannerisms, thought patterns, voice
I could replicate my own version of Diahann Carroll without even blinking by the time I was 16
I turned on the moment I stepped out of my bed
I managed for decades to never quite be me
I was always, always on stage, letting other versions of me take the lead
the down fall to all this is that you play other people so well your real self gets lost and pushed aside so you're never quite sure if you’re playing a role or being yourself
The two have become indiscernible even to you.
I was primed for depression....clinical depression to be more accurate
But I personally don’t believe in psychotropic drugs, they distort the picture. Not for me I’d rather feel it and push through than to numb it and always wonder.
Oh be quiet, don’t yell and scream at me. Good grief you people…
Meds are fine and I believe that some need them along with talk therapy to push through the bad times. It’s a personal choice
It started several years before my mother passed away
I was driving into work and my breathing became very labored, I honestly thought it was the cigarettes so I put it out and turned up the radio. I willed myself to go to work and be ok.
For the next several weeks I would go to work and be "non-sociable" and I didn't know why. Physically there was nothing wrong with me that a salad and exercise couldn't fix. But I would slap on my headphones and tune out the rest of the world. We became best friends; we ate lunch together in the cafeteria, we went on long walks around the campus avoiding everything and everyone.
Until a year later I was sitting in the parking lot and I had THE meltdown
(ok that was a little dramatic but you get my drift)
I had driving into to work and I realized I was crying, I was in the middle of singing some pop song and all of a sudden I felt tears well up. By the time I got to work I was in full-fledged blubbering mode. I didn't want to go to work, I hated my job, I hated the smell of the office, the phony "good mornings" and "gurl let me tell you's". I literally felt trapped by my life.
I'd had this flash while I was driving that I would die working at this company and it scared me shitless. Really it did.
I couldn't imagine spending the next 20 years sitting at my desk pretending I was having a "really great time" with co-workers
There had to be more to life than answering telephones and bullshitting managers that what you’re doing matters to anyone at all.
I wanted to write, produce a documentary, travel the world, eat pizza in Italy, fuck some random hot guy on the terrace of a seedy hotel and never once ask him his name. I wanted to be living my life not just existing in it. Waiting for too short weekends so I can be the "real" me.
So as I pulled into the parking lot I realized I didn't know how to not be in this life I had been told was what I was supposed to want for myself and my family.
Success by any other name is a 401K plan and vested pension to me
THAT was when I got really depressed
I managed to get myself fired... the wonderful thing was....the company was laying off and I'd earned a nice fat $3000 bonus for each of the past three months.
My severance pay would last for several months before I even had to think about unemployment.
Six months later on a balmy summer afternoon…. My official last day of work
I sped out of the parking lot in my little green Hyundai and I blasted the music so loud that I couldn't hear a damn thing for the next twenty minutes.
It was like I'd been given a reprieve twenty seconds before they flipped the switch
I'd been doing poetry around the city for a while but I wanted to do more and in my little note books I'd jotted down some ideas to teach poetry in schools, invite some poets I knew and just live.
I volunteered at two schools, they let ME walk in and do as I pleased
The first school didn't last very long....they were disorganized and the students weren't really interested in literature. Let’s just say they had absolutely no interest in listening to Amiri Baraka or Sonia Sanchez and debate their interpretation of their work. So that fizzled out quick
But the second school was my pride and joy
I taught 4th thru 8th grade
my 6th graders were "da bomb"
For a year I was in heaven
I was doing what I was born to do....TEACH
I looked forward to getting up in the morning...those obnoxious little brats with all their questions, jumping around; snide remarks were like candy to me.
We had lively discussions and they hated me when I corrected their English or made them remember who Nina Simone was and how she was relevant to Queen Latifah, Jill Scott and Lil Kim.
I made mistakes and I got tired but when I got home I was happy
Not having my degree was the only thing keeping me from being able to have a classroom of my own but that was ok, ya gotta start somewhere
The bottom fell out just before the school year ended and my depression took on a whole new face. But I went to school and I tried my hardest to be who I was before.
When I got back my kids gave me hugs and told me they missed me but it was what they did that brought me to tears.
There was a box of handmade and hand written cards and letters from each of my students.
I was DONE
one card in particular made me laugh and cry all the same time
Dear Miss Anna,
I really didn't like you but I like your class
I know you mom died she's fine
when you come back I promise not to talk for a while
He had managed to sum up feelings I couldn't yet distinguish
I was born to teach, I don't have my degree yet but I will soon. So I teach where I can and free if they can't afford me.
I need to teach to feel alive
I've had "jobs" and I still don't quite fit in
I've been fired and I've wondered why I keep going
but I'm not depressed any more
I’m still a little dramatic but I have to be so that I can write this blog, my poetry and those novels I’ve been trying to finish.
I’m ok with being just me…I’m comfortable with it
I no longer pretend and but I do find myself on stage from time to time but it’s to spit a few words that have lived in my mind for so long.
I don’t want a 9-5 but until I get published or hit the million dollar lottery it’s what keeps the lights on and the pencil sharpener going. But I don’t cry in parking lots any more although I have wondered from time to time is this all there is to life.
I’ve discovered I’m really quite interesting to those who want to know me and they don’t think my ideas are so quirky and weird at all.
Don’t get me wrong….the day after I drop my son off at his college dorm I leave the country for destinations unknown so I can tramp around with my backpack, sneakers and smart phone. Cause I still want to travel the world, eat pizza in Italy, wander the streets of Tokyo, get lost in Paris, go see for myself the Temples of Nepal and have sex on a seedy hotel balcony in Barcelona but this time his name is Paolo and he speaks no English at all.
I’m not crazy….I just know there’s more to life than what everyone else told me to look for.
Causes Monique Annan Supports
The Leeway Foundation