My left eyelid hung lower than the right one. Doctors called it a lazy eyelid. In Elementary school I was asked about it more times than I could count. At first it was just curiosity, kids wondering why my left eyelid was different than my right one. It didn’t bother me at first. I would just explain what the doctors had called it and that would be enough. Then the question changed to, what’s wrong with your eye? My answer remained the same but over time the question began to gnaw at me. I started to feel like their was something wrong with me, that this thing that I was born with and had no control over was somehow my fault. It was the loneliest feeling in the world.
After the questions there came the jokes. Jokes were meant to be funny and to be laughed at but the ones I’d heard left me feeling depressed and worthless. I was the joke. I was the reason for children’s laughter. I would stop making eye contact because I just knew someone would say something. If I saw someone staring at me I just knew that they were going to laugh at me any second. They’d call me Cyclops or One-Eyed Willie or a long list of other nicknames I’d already heard. This thing I had been born with had turned into a punishment but I didn’t know what I had done to deserve it. All I knew was that it had to have been something really bad.
At the time, I could count all of my friends on one hand. Surgery would change that. I was sure of it. I couldn’t wait for the day and finally, after elementary school had ended the day had come. I had my eyelid reduced to normal size and that meant nobody could hurt me anymore.
Finally school started and I was once again surrounded by other children. A lot of them were the same I had dealt with in elementary school. I remember coming across a group of them who hadn’t forgot the names they came up with for me. They decided I needed reminded of them but this time I was prepared. I pointed out there their was no longer anything wrong with my eyelid and for a moment I felt untouchable, on top of the world, but only for a moment. Without my eyelid to make fun of they just found something else to take it’s place. This time it was my weight. No matter what I did there was always going to be something wrong with me.
I went back to keeping my distance from others. It was safer that way. I would pick an empty table at lunchtime and hope that no one noticed me. Occasionally I would have to share the table with someone else. That’s when I started to notice that I wasn’t the only one that hid from others. In fact if I looked around the cafeteria I could see other kids sitting by themselves and hoping to remain alone. I knew that wanted to be left alone because they hung their head like I did. I saw that we had something in common and that helped to ease the pain I felt inside. I didn’t dare approach them. After all, there was a reason we had to sit alone. We all had something wrong with us. I wasn’t truly alone though and somehow that made things better.
Words can hurt. That can leave wounds that never fully heal. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror I remember the names people called me. They are echoes from the past but they cut me just the same. I see the little boy with the lazy eyelid who couldn’t do a thing to stop
the words that hurt him and I know that I will never make fun of someone else’s appearance. I know this because after years after altering my own appearance and trying to erase the person that I was, I can’t forget the words. They will always be with me.
Friday, September 17, 2010
When I grow up I want to be a writer. I want to publish books for the world to read. I don't necessarily want to be famous but I wouldn't mind being popular enough that I can make a living doing it. I couldn't tell you how many times that thought has crossed through my mind. It first came to me at a young age and it has never really left. I tried pursuing other things but they never really worked out. I thought of myself as a failure because I couldn't accomplish a lot or see things through. I blamed it on my depression and anxiety. That was easy. I blamed it on other people as well. That was easy too. The truth is I only have myself to blame. Those other things didn't work out because when it came right down to it I didn't want them to work out. They had nothing to do with my dream of being a writer so I didn't put my best foot forward. I set myself up for failure because I knew that even if I accomplished something else I wouldn't be happy because it wasn't what I really wanted. I see things clearer now than I have before. I see a lot of people making careers doing things they don't want to do. They are stuck and they have reached a point where there is nothing they can do about it. They are unhappy and while they are at work all they think about is when their next day off will be. TGIF, a lot of them say. The weekend flies by though and they have to start over again. Mondays are the worst for them. I worked in the meat department of a grocery store and got to where I was pretty good at what I did. I even took a course in it and learned a lot. I could have built off of that and made a pretty decent living somewhere. It's not what I wanted to do with my life though. I was asked a few days ago by someone if I ever missed working in a meat department and I honestly answered that I didn't and I felt happy with that response. I made more money than I make now but that doesn't matter to me if I'm not happy. The whole time I was there all I looked forward to were the times I wouldn't have to be there. Now I work part time at a motel. I clean rooms and do laundry. I hardly make enough money to break even. They could pay me a lot more and I would still feel the same as I did when I worked at the store. Neither one of these jobs have anything to do with my dream. People lose sight of their dreams and someday that's all they are. At one time they were goals. They were possible. People forget that part. They get to thinking something like, 'Who was I kidding? That never would have worked out anyways.' I hope i'm wrong in a lot of cases. I hope people are happy with whatever job they have, whatever life they live. I've seen some people that aren't though and when I look in the mirror in the morning I realize that I am one of them. This is the hand i've been dealt, I tell myself. Oh no, I dealt myself this hand. I'm here because every step I took on my own has led me up to this point. Something is different now though. I've realized that while I'm still breathing it doesn't matter how many years have gone by. I still have the power to take my life in any direction I want to. Their is only one direction that matters though. Their is only one direction that will make me happy and i've known what it was for a long time. It's within reach but am I actually going to reach for it? Am I going to reach for a pen and write a few lines and decide they are crap and crumple up the page? Am I going to go to the motel and decide that this is my life? No, I'm not. I'm going to follow my dream. It's what I'm meant to do.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Mr. Smiley was a living Halloween decoration. He’d come by the nickname because no
matter where he was seen, his mouth was always partially open, showing off the yellow and
brown stains that covered his few remaining teeth. The corners of his mouth always curled
upward as if he were laughing at a joke that had just been told. Every time I saw him I thought
of the carved pumpkins that are set out on porches long after Halloween was over. They would start to shrink in and rot just like an old person and their grins were eerily similar. Mr. Smiley could be seen walking the streets around town. His light blue jacket was instantly recognizable. It was a paper thin slicker that couldn’t possibly keep anyone warm on a cold winter’s day. It hung down on him and molded to his frame from his hands resting heavily in the pockets. His hair, mostly hidden by a ball cap, curls out of a small opening in the back in light brown and silvery strands. His pants were dark brown with perfect creases down the middle of each leg, the kind one might normally wear to an important meeting, but for him they might have been the only pair of pants he owned because he wore them everyday as he walked the streets. No matter which way he was headed he walked like he had a specific destination in mind. Occasionally he would stop and bring his hands out of his pockets, hands calloused and scarred from years of hard work, with liver spots that said he hadn’t been a young man for quite some time. With these hands he would reach down to the ground and pick up something that had caught his eye. He would bring it up close to his face and examine it like a jeweler examining a precious stone. If satisfied with it he would place it in his pocket. If not he would toss it over his shoulder and resume his journey. There was something about Mr. Smiley that scared me and it wasn’t his smile. I’d see him as I was on a journey of my own, walking the streets alone, always alone, and I’d look to my side and realize that I too was alone. If he made eye contact it would last no more than a second. He would turn his head quickly away, and although the words never came out of his parted lips, I knew he wanted to be left alone. He’d grown comfortable with the way his life was and he didn’t want anything to disturb it. Maybe he was lonely, but after years passed he no longer thought about it. Behind his grin I saw a grim future for myself and if I didn’t do something about it I too might someday have to walk the streets alone with a nickname given to me because no one dared ask me for my real name. Mr. Smiley wasn’t a Halloween decoration. He was much scarier than that.