We girls tend to be raised with this idea that we should be cute and agreeable. We should take up very little space, and even less time… someone else’s precious time.
This has been a bone of contention for me, with our lot in life as females, for a while now.
I don’t know if someone else should have pushed harder, or if it was me that should have somehow known to do the pushing. But I ended up an adult, 20 something, never realizing that I was acting small when I should not have been.
Being meek, cute, agreeable. All the things that were not required of me outwardly, and yet were put upon me obviously, nonetheless.
Mercifully, a number of years ago now, I found myself dropped into a totally foreign life, living on a boat. I therefore, strangely, lived in a world that needed much more of me. This world didn’t expect me to be small; it expected me to be whatever I needed to be to drive a boat. Sometimes a big boat.
It expected me to change the oil, set the anchor, to provision for a trip, and plot courses… be generally not small. To be quite large, actually. To be the boss of the thing. This world didn’t care if I was female. Or cute, or in your way. This world needed me to git ‘er done.
When I moved on the boat to begin the process of sailing it down the coast, I had to quit my $13 or so dollar an hour job, the one I was supporting myself with, and doing just fine, thank ya very much… to trust that my needs would be taken care of by Doug.
This was beyond difficult, for reasons not worth going into here.
And in time, not too much time, I noticed that in spite of having adopted the “git ‘er done” mentality, my conditioning was a problem. I did not want to be a burden to anyone, I had been that for too long, and I did not trust anyone but myself to meet my own needs. I had grown accustomed to taking care of myself, so this was hard for me… this letting someone else “take care of” me.
Taking up space in their world. Spending their money. Relatively, a ridiculously small amount of money.
I remember having a hard time when we went out for dinner 3 nights in a row.
I remember having a major problem with him purchasing $600 Gills (foul weather gear, a necessity for my job as crew) for me.
None of this mattered to him. Money didn’t matter.
But I’d grown up in a world where all money did was matter.
So this was weird then.
One night about 6 months into our trip together, me still nervous and weird, thinking my relatively minuscule expenses mattered somehow, several of us were going to go out as a group for dinner. For whatever reason, I was tasked with deciding where we were to go.
“Well,” I said, “this place is cheap. That place near the plaza is close and cheap. We could just get tacos, they’re like 5 pesos a piece”
Came Eric’s booming voice, from some corner of the boat.
“The question was ‘where do YOU want to go for dinner?’. It wasn’t a request for a list of the CHEAPEST OR CLOSEST places we could go for dinner.”
Right then it began to dawn on me: I was thinking small, I’d been taught to make myself small. I’d been taught to believe I was not worthy of having what I wanted. I’d been taught to believe I should aim low. That I was not really worthy. I was Fool’s Gold. I was not the real thing. Not refined. Not worthy.
But I had been picked, I had been asked to be there. I had been welcomed, requested.
I had not allowed myself to be those things though. Never. I had chosen to be the greenhorn, the noob, the one taking up space, the one struggling to belong. And to stay there. The little one. That was me, I did that.
That was eye opening.
It was like the air had been sucked from the room.
So I boomed back: “OK THEN, LET’S GO TO PIPI’S, I WANT SOME TABLESIDE GUAC!”
And just like that, we were on our way in a cab… to the place I wanted to go, because I was allowed to say that I wanted to go there. Because I was asked, because my opinion mattered.
I began to crack out of a shell that night, and for the last 15 years I’ve been surprising myself with my inability to fit back into it.
We are not Fool’s Gold, and we are not meant to be small.
We are made of something else entirely, and none of us fit a particular mold..
Playing small serves no one.
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