By Sarah Inouye, TIWP Student
I am an incredibly, incredibly good kid. That is not to say that I’m getting good grades or that I’m smart or successful or beautiful or extraordinary. It’s to say that I’m a rule-follower. It’s to say that my opportunities for heroism were almost always shot down by the fear of getting in trouble or screwing up. It’s to say I’m not a very brave kid, until someone tells me to be.
This has been a pretty solid pattern throughout the entirety of my life. I grew up in very close quarters with kids who suffered learning disabilities; I grew up with “bad kids.” Not bad in a way where they’re rude or uncomfortable to be around, or played with weapons or matches. They just weren’t rule-followers. They were rule-breakers. They were unsolicited and they didn’t listen to anyone, which constantly had them in trouble. I spend the vast majority of my days now, wishing that I could be like them. But even though every part of my life intertwined with theirs throughout middle school and high school, I was never able to be like them. I was never able to stir up trouble or mess things up. The only thing I would be called out for was a lack of participation or talking too quietly in class. In elementary school this seemed like something to be proud of. I thought at the time that I was protecting myself.
But in middle school being quiet really isn’t something that protects you. In fact, it makes you a target—mostly to yourself. I was so angry at the time, it wasn’t something that anyone wanted to see. For some reason I thought it was better to be silent than angry, so I never spoke. That was one of the worst times I have ever failed myself. No one made me this way. There hadn’t been any overshadowing, overwhelming cruelty in my childhood that stopped me from being brave. It’s just who I was. I’m just nervous to rearrange things, to recreate and reshape. Those were years that I wasn’t able to protect myself with silence. I also wasn’t just able to start yelling things, or suck it up and get tough. It’s not who I was. It’s not who I am.
God, I wish I could have protected myself better.
There are ways to avoid your own disposition though; the occasional smell of courage and strength linger in the air, sometimes even around me. When it does touch me, I grab it, clench it as hard as I can in both fists. If I can’t hold my own hand, holding bravery seems like the second best thing. There are some aspects of yourself that you have to unlearn, the most desperate and confusing things.
I am working on unlearning good.
I’m going to protect myself better.