I had kind of a breakthrough yesterday, and I have to share.
I’ve been all out of sorts lately. I assumed it was schedule oriented since it has been particularily packed. It’s a blessing, truly truly spectacular to have these opportunities, but this isn’t “just a website” to me and something I shut on and off. I write from my soul and TNTML has undeniably changed my life for good forever. Not only do I get the cathartic release of having an outlet to document everything, but it has given me this INSANE amount of confidence that I’ve never had before.
I’m not confident on a personal level – at all. After 28 years I’ve developed a knack for getting away with shit, mostly because I’ve just had a lot of life experience and know that anytime I have ever tried to go after something chances were good I could figure it all out; it’s a learned trust, but operates from this place that … still … fucking … hurts.
I always “know” things in my gut. I feel rhythm in everything. Trends, people, tech … anything. It’s this “channel” or “stream” for lack of a better word that I grew up very much knowing I could tap into.
It’s served me extremely well as it’s that “thing” that I know in life to trust and listen to. For the last few weeks now, I’ve gotten over and over the fact that I need to re-read the book The Drama of the Gifted Child.
At first, it came up when a friend posted it on my Facebook wall as a suggested read, and then again came up in conversation at dinner on Sunday (indirectly) and also yesterday while I was eating lunch watching the Bravo show LA Shrinks.
I had already re-ordered the book last night on Amazon, but by the time I got the message for the THIRD time that I need to revisit the book – I lost it.
I started crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t even understand where this place was that I was crying from, but I knew I had a meeting in an hour so I better get myself composed.
Water, get water, I thought.
I went to the fridge and saw this picture of myself as a child …
I was a devious, devious little kid. Totally unapologetic about it too. I KNEW I could get away with murder, so I would CONSISTENTLY push as many of my parents buttons as possible smiling back batting my BIGGGGG blue eyes.
What did I do wrong mommy? I would think as I ran through the racks of clothing stores hiding from my mom laughing as she was screaming my name.
I would emerge every time like it was NBD and she was totally the crazy one.
She would of course hug me and tell me to never leave her side again. Why oh why my parents didn’t leash me is STILL beyond me.
I then placed my hand on the photo, and continued to sob.
I see this beautiful little girl, who yes was a handful, but never meant any wrong.
How could they abuse a CHILD … I sobbed and sobbed.
Funny because I was not only on their doorstep via being featured in Hartford Magazine’s January edition, but also New Haven Living’s February edition.
I am now the age that they were when my first memories of the abuse started. My parents had my brother and I super young, and my dad’s siblings were only a few years older than him.
I’ve told this story 100 times, but I can’t stress how much of me still feels this … hole inside. I spent a lot of my childhood in and out of therapy, and COUNTLESS of my own dollars as an adult.
I remember my shrink at 22 told me to read The Drama of the Gifted Child, and I thought it was all a joke.
Love my inner child? I would scoff back. You have GOT to be fucking kidding me.
Being an intellect, and someone that defaults to logic it seemed … insane.
What does my inner child have to do with anything? I would ask in sessions.
Because that little girl is still hurting, she would explain kindly. What was your nickname as a kid?
Jenny, I said. Everyone in my family called me that until I was about 8.
I want you to be very loving to Jenny, she instructed. Listen to what she wants, and send her lots of love.
She then handed me this journal, and The Drama of the Gifted Child. Take notes, and write with your non-dominant hand.
HA! I’m ambidextrous mothafucka! What’s a non-dominant hand to someone like me? I thought from a place of arrogance and stubbornness.
I want you to write from Jenny, she instructed. Write from that little girl inside.
I stared back blankly wondering how am I the one on all the drugs? You’re the nutso woman.
He haunted me in my dreams for MONTHS after he passed, and even the night before my breakthrough session with my shaman he appeared.
I know he feels bad, I get it … but what are you supposed to do with this damage?
The worst part is, is that it wasn’t even just them. They were absolutely my earliest memories of “confusion” (I didn’t classify it as hurt because I was mostly just stunned), but my mom’s siblings and inlaws were equally unkind and the teasing I received at school was RELENTLESS.
My parents never talked “down” to my brother and me. They treated us as little adults for as long as I could remember. My mother being a writer, and my father an extremely smart lawyer meant a LOT of big words were used in the house.
Being a 6 year old and busting out with something other than Green Eggs and Ham caused a lot of isolation.
All I was trying to do was express myself in the manner in which I knew, but because other kids didn’t understand it meant that I was “weird” and not allowed to play with barbies since I had “cooties” or some variant string of childhood leprosy.
Quit with the mechanics, write from the heart. Write from the heart, Friel. It’s so hard letting your guard down when you don’t even know it’s there.
It’s cool now to say that you grew up and were picked on. Especially in tech, it’s almost a rite of passage … but what isn’t discussed is how damaging it is emotionally. The hate, the shame, the self deprecation wrapped in humor.
It’s not funny, and not a “rite of fucking passage.” It’s shitty. Done by shitty people that need a parade of crying puppies following them around on a daily basis. If I don’t deal with this however, I am going to continuously loop. As I learned this weekend, I have to close the end tag in my subconscious.
I knew I was different as a child. Everyone knew I was different actually, and told me quite often.
My parents loved both my brother and I equally, but people have ALWAYS been attracted to me; I’m a people magnet.
This helps me now in running my own business, but as a child it was a burden.
From as early as I could remember I would just walk into the room and without even realizing it command attention. Never from the people that I wanted it from ::cough cough fuck you dad’s family:: but anytime I would go with my mom to work, or be at the store, people would comment almost immediately on something I was doing.
Being the ham that I was, I would courtesy or play up the cute card even more (MANIPULATIVE FROM THE WOMB!!!).
I would then try the same “cute tactic” with my dad’s family, or any of my relatives really … and was consistently told that “children were to be seen and not heard.” I couldn’t understand the attention I could get without even lifting a finger, yet from my own family was told to quiet down … or just go outside.
My parents were wonderful (I’m past the whole, HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME MOM AND DAD stage), and did the best they could, but their daughter bottom line was quite the handful.
You should get your daughter on TV, said someone to my mother when I was just a few years old.
She thought about it for a moment, but then put it out of her mind. Child actors are all crazy, she told me she thought. I don’t want that for my child.
A few more years passed, I think at this point I was about 7, and I VIVIDLY remember being in the grocery store with my mom.
She had told me to hold her spot at the check out while she ran back to grab some milk.
At my eye level (I was a peanut) was a magazine cover of Cindy Crawford.
At that age, I obviously knew what a magazine was and that people that were “in entertainment” ended up on there, but I also knew that was going to be me.
TO THIS DAY I remember my actual thought, and it was, “I wonder when she was my age if she knew she was going to be there one day?”
I had no idea what, how, or why, I was going to end up on one … but like the trends and things I can feel – I just knew.
About a year later, Saved By The Bell came out, and since it was based in California I also decided that was where I was going to be.
I’m going to move to California, I announced to my parents.
Okay daughter, they said continuing whatever it was they were doing.
The years went on though, and I never changed my mind. I had no idea that the “entertainment industry” was based in California nor did I even know what I wanted to do in it … but I knew it was where I belonged.
I’m going to be Kelly Kapowski, I thought.
Of course the delusion of Saturday morning entertainment lasted only 22 minutes – what was left, were a lot of tears and genuine confusion.
I had no real “friends” in school, and every holiday or birthday was spent crying in my room.
WHY DON’T THEY LOVE ME?!?! I would SSOOOOOBBBBBBBBB to my parents.
<tangent> I hated my birthday throughout all of my childhood. I’m not really mad at it anymore, since I am proud of all that I have accomplished thus far in my lifetime- but I’m still kinda meh about the entire thing. </tangent>
You’re different Jenny, they would say, cradling me.
Why do I have to be different?!?! I would cry back!!
I.just.want.them.to.love.me.I.just.want.to.be.normal. I would sob seal style into my pillow until I passed out.
Up until that point I had never told anyone about my entertainment industry aspirations. It wasn’t until my 7th grade teacher Mr. V that I uttered it to a single adult outside of my parental units.
He pulled me aside one day after one of our talent shows (I had been taking dance from the time I was two. The same age actually that I started typing).
You shine on stage, he said. You sparkle and you don’t find that in people very often.
Taking his compliment as permission for expression, I then admitted my deepest desire. I remember shaking as the words escaped my mouth that I had wanted to be an entertainer.
In Connecticut everyone goes to college, becomes some sort of educated professional, has 2.5 kids, and coasts into retirement clutching their pearls and downing prozac.
While some may have dreams of being an entertainer, it’s not exactly the most realistic or logical career path.
I already knew that about you, he said. You’re a star, and people are drawn to you.
I thought back to my own family, and struggles with peers.
Excusing the familia part, I opted to reply, yeah but I don’t have a lot of friends. (Not that I’m sure he didn’t notice anyway.)
But people respect you, he said. You’re different and a leader. You’ll figure out the friend part one day, but you need to just figure out you. It will pay off one day, he said.
I’m different … I’m different … I’m different … all of these people keep telling me how “different” I am, but what’s SO GREAT about being DIFFERENT!!!!
Being different to me as a child translated to isolation, absolute absolute emotional abuse, and this undercurrent of mania and panic not thinking but KNOWING that people were laughing at me.
Instead of getting angry at various circumstances or demanding a change, I did what most children do, and shut down.
I very rarely fought back when I was picked on. I let the children said what they wanted to, all the while knowing that the adults on my father’s side of the family confirmed it.
I am pathetic, I said to myself over and over as a child.
My parents tell me how much they love me, and how special I am, but they are supposed to say those things. Everyone else in the world tells me over and over something differently, so who am I supposed to believe?
My inner monologue only reflected the confusion.
Instead of relying on peers to help (since I never had them) I turned to my journal and to the internet.
My parents weren’t ultra loaded at that time, but my parents did have computers at the house (which wasn’t common back then) and by the time 7th grade was ending I was already online.
YAHOO!! was the default screen.
<tangent> I was on prodigy before then, but all I did was write a bunch of poetry and play Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego? I remember the login screen was yellow, and I think blue? There were a bunch of variations though I do remember. We were on hella old school on a green screen Epson for a hot minute, and then transferred over to I don’t even know what, but it had a J: drive and all I did was play Jeopardy all day. </tangent>
I saw near the “search” bar an option to chat.
Chat? Like talk to people?
Wait, I can talk to people online? I thought?!
I vividly remember having a handful of penpals on Prodigy but if memory serves correct it was more of a forum. I don’t remember there being “traditional email” and I honestly don’t remember there being a chat. The emotional connection and repeated interaction DEFINITELY wasn’t there, so the whole concept of a retained and centralized chat fascinated me.
Enter in screen name, or create an account, it said.
Create an account, I selected.
I honestly don’t remember if I put my real name (I don’t know what my 12 year old brain would have made up), but I entered in the suggested handle “cyber-babe.”
<tangent> I had heard adults call the internet “cyber space” and watching WAY too much In Living Color and Married With Children, I was definitely entering aspirational babe territory. </tangent>
It was available.
Awesome, I thought, securing the handle.
I then found myself with access to a series of chat rooms.
From “The Den” to “Hot Spot” being a cyber-babe was quite confusing.
A/s/l? people would type into the chat box.
I pretty much figured out it was age/sex/location but why anyone was asking was beyond me.
I browsed through a few more rooms and finally found something more my speed. It was a room called “love and light.”
I want to love, I thought. And I love sunshine so this is good.
Oh good god the adorableness of innocence.
It was in that chat that I was spared from the barrage of unknowing sexual advances and entered into this space where I could actually “connect.”
I didn’t tell anyone how old I was, but for the first time in my life, I admitted to another soul that I was in pain.
I hurt, I confessed to the room.
Since my actual name wasn’t present, I felt this anonymity that allowed transparency.
What’s wrong? typed back a handful of people.
Nobody likes me, I typed. Family … I have no friends ….
A few people started typing HAHAHA.
I vividly remember staring at the screen shocked, and hurt thinking how much I couldn’t handle any more isolation.
Welcome home, said another line of chat.
You hurt too? I typed back.
Of course, the person said. We all do. Welcome to life!!!
Their excitement confused me. People in Connecticut act like their life is perfect, and you are the weird one for feeling any ounce of pain. The fact that they were all openly admitting their pain was a paradigm shift.
Obvi, they didn’t know I was 12, but I didn’t care. It was the first time I was TRRULLLYYY honest with another human being, and the first time I was truly honest with myself.
I feel invincible online, I thought.
I remember that night writing in my journal that I thought I had “found my people.” I didn’t have to feel alone anymore, there was this chat room I could go to and … chat.
Night after night, I would sneak onto Yahoo! to chat. My parental units were really good about monitoring our computer usage, but behold the power of the child and the quick fingers of screen swappage.
I channeled all of my pain, and isolation as a youngin into those rooms. I attempted to switch it up on more than one occasion, but ALWAYS came back to “love and light.”
Being online at that time translated to being a TRUE freak. People are naturally afraid of things they don’t understand and people in 2013 STILL barely get this whole “online” thing, so imagine back in 1997!!!!!!
I confessed to a girl in one of my classes how much I was into chat rooms one day.
YOU DO THAT?!?! she screeched back?! My parents tell me not to go on there. Bad things happen.
I was confused with what she was saying, especially with so many positive experiences.
<tangent> Of COURSE I was no saint either. Being the original cyber-babe on Yahoo! DEFINITELY meant I got some extremely creepy messages, but my sexual impulses at that time were extremely random. I didn’t connect the dots to peer to peer masturbation over the computer. It was more of a regurgitation of “oh yeah baby you turn me on” much like the processing of what a “babe” was in general. I had no fucking clue. </tangent>
These just aren’t my people, I said to my journal. I don’t understand people I go to school with but when I go online I can be free. There is someone there to talk to, and someone that likes me. I’ve found home.
By the time I was 13, my parents knew my devotion to computers was something extreme. At that point, I had been typing for 11 years, developed my own little computer consulting company called “computers anonymous” and had even built out a series of sites on angelfire and geocities using the MASSSIIVVEEEEE HTML book I begged them to buy me one day.
I never studied programming, but I would search manually in the book for whatever line of code I needed and figure out how to edit it to get what I wanted.
#FFFF for white, I read, typing it in our packard bell, or gateway.
All of it was regurgitation. Much like the Pound Puppies books I saw when I was 2. I couldn’t even read at that point, but I recognized shapes and knew that that shape was the same as the one that my mom had typed and appeared on the screen. If I just pushed a button I could repeat. This was actually fun to me. I’m NOT kidding.
<tangent> This is where I struggle, btw. I’m told I need to be more “loving” and “warm” with my vocabulary, but my entire life I’ve been technical. Even before I was able to process what was happening, the 2 year old “Jenny” still taught herself how to type. It’s like being raised on speaking Greek only to be told one day you can’t speak Greek anymore, you have to learn Russian. THIS IS WHAT I KNOW!!!!! I’m COMMPPLLEEETTEELLLYYY open to changing (and recognize this is a turning point) but it is extremely, extremely foreign and INSANELY difficult for me to process. Wait, maybe that is the point. Feel Friel, Feel … and quit referring to yourself in the third person. </tangent>
So, no friends … Jenny goes online … finds friends …. a home page … life is bueno.
Except, at age 12/13 kids start dating.
While online boyfriends did happen even back then, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted.
I grew up LOOVVINNNNGGG Disney movies, and while most were told it was all a fairy tale, I actually also had that at home.
My parents met in grade school, and my dad said he knew my mom was “the one” at age 12.
Now being at that age, I thought THIS IS MY BIG CHANCE!!! Now is the time!! Let’s do this!!!
Only the magnetism I had as a youngin had diluted to the awkwardness of the teen years.
Big glasses, braces, and acne shadowed my Kelly Kapowski dreams.
Selena was really big at that time, and I remember hearing on the radio (I always needed noise to fall asleep) this song as I closed my eyes … https://www.youtube.com/embed/VRU2qs82DAg?wmode=opaque