FearLess Reader – Sarah
Oh, lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood. –The Animals
I remember it vividly. I was in first grade, and we were walking through the hall on our way back to the classroom after our music lesson. All of a sudden, in the middle of the hallway, my teacher stopped the class and looked at me.
“Sarah, you stepped on that teacher’s shoe. Go back to her and apologize.”
Bewildered, I looked at her. “I didn’t step on anyone!”
“Yes, you did. I saw it. Now go say you’re sorry.”
I could feel my cheeks turning red and the tears welling up in my eyes.
I walked back over to the other teacher who was herding her class in the opposite direction. “I’m sorry I stepped on you,” I said, still not understanding why I was being forced to lie.
“You didn’t step on me,” she said kindly, looking confused.
“Mrs. MacDonald said I did, and she made me come apologize,” I managed to mumble before I walked back over to my class.
Back in the classroom, I burst into tears.
When Mrs. MacDonald came over and asked what was wrong, the hallway incident long-forgotten, I was unable to speak. I looked up at her, eyes still puffy from crying, and for the first time ever, words failed me. How could I explain to her what I was feeling when she was the source of my despair?
Instead, I said the next best thing that came to mind.
“I miss my mommy!”
For 22 years, this memory has followed me around, and I have never quite known why. Surely being wrongly accused of stepping on someone’s shoe in first grade should hardly be a blip on my radar.
And yet, every now and then I find myself thinking about it at the seemingly most random times.
While attending a new meetup group.
While writing a blog post.
While thinking about an important conversation I need to have.
And finally, this year, I realized the connection.
From one seemingly insignificant moment in elementary school, I walked away with a deep-seated fear of being misunderstood. In that moment, I realized that nobody else could ever see my intentions, and so I would always be judged on other peoples’ perceptions of my actions.
Despite being a sweet, loving child who would never step on anyone, even by accident, without apologizing profusely, I was still made to feel like I had done something wrong and forced into an even more embarrassing situation as a result.
Since that day, in various capacities, I have been hedging bets, apologizing for my actions, trying to take responsibility for other people’s responses and building up more and more walls to keep myself safe from further misunderstandings.
For 10 years, I had a blog, but I only wrote about things that happened. I was never willing to put my true thoughts or opinions out into the world for fear that they would be misunderstood.
All of that because one day, in first grade, I stepped on someone’s shoe.
It all feels somewhat silly and melodramatic at times, but being able to pinpoint my core fear and learning how to work through it has been life-changing. While my fearless story lacks some of the derring-do of others, putting myself out there, on my own blog and on the blogs of others, is truly one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever done.
After this, quitting my job and traveling the world should be a piece of cake, especially when I can let go of the need for anyone else to understand.
Although she’d never give herself this title, Sarah is quite the badass. Currently a damn fine blogger, who’s bucket list includes dolphin training, she also has a pretty impressive range of prior gigs – my favorites of which are electrician and mystery shopper (although not at the same time, I’m assuming). Oh, and if you share Sarah’s fear of being misunderstood, not to worry – she’s working on it. Someday soon she’ll have courses and products to nip that right in the bud, thank you very much.
Until then, keep an eye on her at her blog, No Help Here or tag along with her on Twitter @sarahemily.