When I was in the fourth grade I became best friends with the coolest girl in my class. She was smart, funny, kind and beautiful; a genuinely nice person who just happened to be extremely talented at everything she did. Looking back now I feel like I was doing just fine myself, but from the perspective I held at the time, I felt lackluster to say the least. A poor Batman’s Robin would be a fitting analogy. As our first year of friendship progressed, I felt myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with my overlooked state of being. The only problem was that I had no idea what to do about it. Thus I did what any lost and awkward ten year old would do, I copied everything my best friend did.
Her favorite cartoon character was Tweety Bird and she wore these super cute tshirts of him outlined in glitter. Suddenly those same shirts ended up in my closet as well and Tweety Bird paraphernalia could be found all over my room. She was super athletic and a star player on every team. I despised gym class and had avoided team sports like the plague because I felt I was constantly the LVP. Suddenly I was signed up for basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer. Her favorite junk food was cheetos and caramilk bars. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what my new favorite snack was.
They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and thankfully mine seemed to come off as us just having a lot in common. But my most embarrassing and damaging act of mimicry (which I still cringe of to this day… literally cringing right now) is how I ended up having to wear glasses. I can’t know for sure, but up until the age of ten I had fairly good vision. It wasn’t until my first visit to the optometrist whilst in the midst of operation Alina 2.0 where I lied on half of my vision test in the hope of getting glasses. As you can already guess, my cool best friend had glasses, meaning I must have them too.
No, it did not occur to me at the time that I could get frames with no prescription. I was all about
GO BIG OR GO HOME.
Sure, the prescription was totally off, I could barely see and it gave me headaches to wear them for more than thirty minutes at a time. Sure, about half a year in I realized that my actual vision was deteriorating and I had to go to the optometrist again and get an actual eyeglasses prescription that I now had to wear all the time to see properly. Sure, it also just so happened that right around this time my cool best friend ended up switching to contact lenses… But hey, it was all worth it because now I WAS COOL!
Really looking forward to getting laser eye surgery in the future so I can return back to square one and pretend like I didn’t prematurely harm my eyesight and unnecessarily spend thousands of dollars on contact lenses for almost two decades. Good times.
Anyway, the point of this story sums up the ferocity of what I was willing to do to feel worthy of my own existence. Leading up to this, I was already very uneasy about accepting what made me different and having hope that others would accept it too. Moving from Kiev, Ukraine to a small agriculture community in rural Saskatchewan where I initially couldn’t communicate, had a weird name and was abnormally tall for my age, caused a burning desire to fit in. But even after that was accomplished, I still had a sinking feeling that something was wrong, that I still wasn’t good enough.
I thought that popularity was my golden ticket to that sense of fulfillment and confidence. Even though my mastermind plan had heeded some superficial results such as more attention from boys and girls asking where I got my glitter Tweety Bird shirt from (Walmart, you’re welcome), I still felt as empty and uncomfortable as ever. It wasn’t until junior high where I finally realized that staying popular in this way was a full time job and my very authentic frustration and impatience began to leak out. I stayed good friends with my former best friend, but I branched out into a new circle of girls that I could relate to a lot more. It was like I could start to breathe a little fuller and I didn’t feel as much of a need for people to like me, let alone feel like I was really that unworthy of positive affirmation.
While there were certainly moments of loneliness, awkwardness, rejection and cruelty in my childhood, in the grand scheme of things, they really were the minority of my experience. But through my own attention to and loathing of those aspects, it became a dominant reality that I felt I had to fix from the outside, in. I didn’t understand that what I was actually fighting was my true essence attempting to emerge. But instead I stifled it with projections of who and what I thought I had to be in order to bear the gift of that innate feeling of acceptance and wellness.
I assumed that if I could create as realistic of a disguise as possible, that over time I would start to believe it too. And I did in many ways. A number of nuances and beliefs stayed long after my imitation stopped. I had many moments of being genuinely confused of why I was still doing things I knew I didn’t actually enjoy or see much purpose in. Many other disguises and roles came after that period of time and even now, I still feel like I am shedding layers of what no longer serves me to allow who I truly am to shine.
I am a work in progress and I much more content with having just my own opinion of being enough. One thing I know for sure though, all those years I spent thinking I was Robin… when in reality,
I AM BATMAN.
Lots of love,