Wings To Fly
Susan P. BlevinsI spent my entire childhood trying to fit in, but I never succeeded. Even when I was seven years old, I knew I was different, and I hated it. l longed to be the same as the other children. When I was eight, I was picked on by a boy called Peter, who chased me up the hill on the way home from school, flicking his knotted tie at my legs to make me run and make me cry. I was a sickly, asthmatic child, and my mother made me wear thick lisle stockings, and a dreadful garment called a “liberty bodice” to keep my chest warm. None of the other girls wore such clothes, so I was prime pickings for the bullies of the little local school I attended in the industrial heart of England. I couldn’t run around and do sports because I was too frail, so as a result I was considered “different”.
When I was twelve, we left The Midlands, and moved to the south coast, where I was enrolled in a private school called St. Wilfred’s. I was pathetically thrilled to be fitted for my school uniform at Cobbold’s, and remember saying excitedly to my mother, “Now I’m going to be just the same as everybody else”. However, there too was a bully, whose name was Maria, and she and her cronies picked on me mercilessly, cornering me in a bathroom one time and aiming sharpened pencils at my body like daggers. They terrified me.
I never understood what made me different. Was it my sickly appearance? Or perhaps because I was an only child and was shy? I spent half my childhood ill at home, alone with my books and crayons, missing much of my schooling. It seemed to be some inner quality that bothered people, and so it bothered me. This lasted through college, and even into my first, overseas job, at the United Nations in Rome. Eventually the weak little worm turned, but only after costly battles. My experiences validate the saying, “if it doesn’t break you it will make you”.
Looking back now, I wonder if perhaps it was my fierce sense of independence and individuality which bothered people. I was forced to conform by my parents and society, brainwashed into adhering to England’s tribal rules, being told to “grin and bear it”, and to “pull my socks up”, in other words, to show little or no emotion, and never to disturb the status quo. I suppressed my own nature without knowing I was doing it, and eventually I became very unhappy, and rather wild (by English standards), without understanding the genesis of my malaise.
After seriously contemplating suicide in my thirties, I decided I had better do something to mend the broken wings of my spirit. I went into deep and demanding Jungian psychotherapy to peel away the many layers of conditioning I had been forced to endure. My analyst and I kept excavating until I found the germ of the original ‘me’, and was able to nurture it back to life. My creative nature had been completely stifled, and therein lay the problem: I am at heart an artist, and always have been. Thanks to the probing inner work I did with a very demanding and intuitive analyst, I reconnected with my creative side again and started painting, writing, and composing. I snapped out of my neuroses almost immediately. I felt like a bird who had at last been set free from the cage of conformity.
Now that I am in my seventies, I can laugh at how I myself conspired with restrictive English society to conform to their rules. I spent half my life working to fit in, and the other half celebrating that I did not fit in. I am happy with who I am today, my own person, individuated from the herd, conscious of the workings of human nature, and I embrace my uniqueness.
Would that we could all accept and love each other as I finally learned to accept and love myself.
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