I’ve determined that writing books is impossible, the good kind of impossible. The kind where it frustrates you beyond end, where you’re tempted to chuck your far-too-nice-laptop across the room and give up that writing career once and for all.
I’ve felt like that an awful lot recently, like I should just give up. It’s an awful feeling; it’s that pit of despair hidden somewhere in that too-big-heart of yours. To quote a recent tweet of mine, it’s that icy-hot feeling in your chest. Defeat kinda sucks and it may, very well, be my least favorite feeling.
I know I ought not be so hard on myself for things I genuinely cannot control, but I’ve never been too good at that. School always brought out my perfectionist self, and, turns out, college is no exception.
There was a certain level of comfort I felt at my high school; a ridiculously small private school where you couldn’t sneeze without being blessed or miss a class without being worried about. I was comfortable knowing everyone and being known by everyone; I did a good job of settling into the me everyone knew me to be. Though, oftentimes, I felt trapped in the small environment, I knew how to do the high-school thing. I had it down. I knew the teachers almost as well as I knew the student body, and it wasn’t hard to grow close to them. (Side note: shoutout to all those amazing teachers, I love them so much). But I was beyond ready for something new.
College is cool — let me rephrase that — College is amazing and fantastic and everything I wanted and more, but it’s drastically different. I very rarely will turn a corner and see someone I know, or walk into a classroom where a teacher asks to see pictures of the new cat they heard I got. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
I needed some sense of familiarity amongst all the new craziness of college, so naturally I looked to the arts to find my second-family, the people that could help me get through this wild first semester. My attempts were fairly unsuccessful; I was no longer Elizabeth Campbell: Choir Extraordinaire or Elizabeth Campbell: Not-Quite-but it doesn’t matter because our theatre department is tiny-Triple-Threat. I was very much Lizzy Campbell: Hi, I know you don’t know anything about me, and I’m probably not that good, but I want this so badly, please let me into your group. It felt like I was left with nothing.
A lot had changed for me last week, not all bad, but a lot shifted. I am pretty much the worst at change, ask anyone who knows me. So, I’ve fallen back on my safety net of writing. I like to think I’m good with words, or maybe I just like being able to make that icy-hot feeling sound elegant in writing.
Whenever I feel less-than-stellar, I think about the thirteen-year-old girls I had the pleasure of looking after this summer. I remember being their age, and pretty much worshipping the counselors I had. It’s pretty strange to think there’s a select group of teenagers out there who think I’m cool. I’m not gonna lie, thirteen year old girls scare me, like a heck-of-a-lot. They’re in an environment where they’re taught to analyze and nitpick a person until they’ve found their greatest weakness and biggest insecurity. That’s terrifying!!! Why do we teach teenage girls to do that!!!
But somehow, by the absolute grace of God, my girls wouldn’t hate me (or at least they did a good job of hiding it if they did). Anyone who works with ‘kids’ will say something along the lines of “I was here to teach them, but they taught me”. It’s not an untrue statement, but I’m going to modify it for my own personal use. I was there to love those girls and show them how to love, but boy-oh-boy did they teach me how to love. They taught me how to truly love even when it was unnecessary and how to love when it was the most difficult thing I’d do all day. I can’t tell you how many times I would pray and ask for the ability to love them through everything–through the yelling and crying and disrespect and mean side comments and strange-obsession with fictional characters.
Those thirteen year-olds taught me a whole lot about loving. This summer especially, they taught me a lot about loving myself. Every Friday night the counselors would dress up for our closing ceremony of the session, and every Friday, without fail, my girls would be shocked to see me with makeup on.
A too-kind chorus of ‘wow Lizzy, you look so good’s would follow, complimented with the occasional ‘oh-my-gosh Lizzy, you’re actually pretty’. All said with good intentions, I hope.
Those Friday nights were some of my favorites, not because I needed affirmation from my campers, but because it usually led to a discussion of societal beauty. My campers generally seemed to turn into mini-me’s, walking around camp sporting their favorite Lizzy-ism. My campers could usually be heard making bad dad jokes, doing outlandish dance routines made by yours truly, or yelling my name whenever they saw me. But I think my favorite thing they picked up was the “strong independent woman” phrase that could be inserted in almost every situation.
Whenever I start feeling down on myself, I remember all those sweet faces singing lyrics to songs I wrote, following my horrible choreography, or putting salt on their brownies per my suggestion. They never fail to brighten my day.
And that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot this week, those sweet smiles and wonderfully loud laughs. I think about the times we’d just sit on the cabin floor together dissecting life; I’d preach to them about the unimportance of boys and how only they could determine their own worth. And now here I am, in a Starbucks, feeling defeated. If I preach self-love to my campers shouldn’t I be doing the same for myself? I’d tell them they’re worth too much to beat themselves up over a couple failures; I’d tell them they’re so incredibly loved and that a new adventure is waiting around the corner to replace the one lost; I’d probably tell them that they were strong-independent-ladies and needed to get back on their feet and brace what life has to throw at them.
Anyways, I think I ought to start taking my own advice.