My Serious Face

I was around nine-years-old the first time someone told me I was too serious. I was playing outside with a group of friends at school. I moved around a lot and this had been my third move in the last year. Kids are resilient and, back in the early ‘90’s, not nearly as mean or cliquey as the kids today. They accepted me in as one of their own and, in each place I moved, I had friends.  

I had always been a serious child, paying attention to things children usually didn’t notice like the way the wind sounded hollow through naked poplar trees in winter and the smell of the freshly cut hay field after the rain in late summer. My childhood was partially responsible for my seriousness and so was my old soul. Abuse and neglect have a funny way of transforming a person: sometimes they become serious and introverted, seeking attention through their deep scars in a quiet, persistent way; other times becoming loud and boisterous, demanding recognition at all times at a superficial level, not taking no for an answer.  

I had become quiet, reclusive and serious. I certainly had my moments of loudness and attention demanding (all teenagers, no matter the back ground, get there at some point), but with most people, I was hard to get to know and introverted.  

At nine, there was a group of us all playing outside at recess. They were having a wonderful time playing some game that children play; laughing and giggling, happy with each other and life. I was playing as well, but my laughter and smiles didn’t come as easily as the others. As I stepped back to watch the scene on the green grass of spring, a boy from my class came and stood in front of me.  

“Why aren’t you playing any more?” he asked, hands on his hips, slightly out of breath from running, a slight scowl mixed with the happiness of childhood. 

“I dunno,” I responded slowly, shrugging my shoulders, taken aback by someone wondering why I wasn’t playing. No one had noticed before.  

“Why do you always look like someone died?” He asked, scrunching up his face and crossing his arms over his chest. 

“I dunno.” I shrugged my shoulders again, then crossed my own arms protectively over my chest. I stared him down until someone called his name and he ran away to enjoy in the festivities of childhood. I looked around nervously as tears started to well in my eyes and I felt angry at myself. I didn’t really know what that boy meant, but as I thought about it through the years, and as others informed me about how serious and unapproachable I was, I realized what he meant. It would be a common thread throughout my life, constantly pushing people away and getting myself hurt more often then I would like to admit. 

I was too serious. People don’t like the seriousness. Really, though, I think it’s that they don’t like that I am always thinking. My brain never shuts off. I don’t do small talk. I can’t just talk about the weather or the last awards show or sports. My brain simply isn’t wired like that. It’s wired to talk about politics and poverty, abuse and action, love and loss.  

I want to hear about what keeps you up until after midnight and what wakes you up at 3am. I want to know what makes you cry and what makes you laugh; ups and down alike. I want to know what makes you fly and what makes you sink. I want to know why you think the world works the way it does, even if we don’t really have any way to fix it. I don’t want to skirt around the tough issues or the things that make you hurt.  

I don’t want to ignore any of those things for myself either. I want to open and honest about who and what I am. I don’t want to hide it, close it away or pretend part of me doesn’t exist.  

I used to hide myself. I tried for years to stop feeling how I was feeling. To pretend to be someone who could just go on with life, be superficial and have fun. For a while it worked, although I did it with the help of self-medicating in ways I shouldn’t have. There are nights with missing pieces and less than admirable choices, but you know what, there were a whole lot more people who wanted to be around me. I was fun and carefree. I could have a good time.  

But it wasn’t me. And soon enough, the faking caught up with me. I’ve struggled with depression most of my life. I’ve done counseling several times throughout my 32 years, worked through and read more than 20 self-help books and works books and tried to improve my view on life. I believed that there was something very wrong with me

I no longer believe that. I know I have had sever trauma happen in my life. I know I’m no where near having dealt with all of it, but I also know it is a part of me. I know I will get there.

I am becoming comfortable with the person that I am. I am learning to be able read people better and trust my gut. Not everyone deserves to be engaged in the serious and deep conversations I want to have. Not everyone deserves to have that part of me and that’s ok. I am a serious person; I am a deep thinker and care deeply about the world and people in it. I know I am an old soul and I am beginning to realize and come to terms with the fact that there are many out there who aren’t going to understand the needs that I have for something deeper.

I’m not too serious; I’m tired of small talk and meaningless conversations. What hurt and confused me when I was nine, is giving me the drive and passion to pursue my dreams and live an authentic life that’s right for me.

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