It feels odd, and almost too soon to revisit these exercises, but for the sake of the blog (and to perhaps regain some creative equilibrium) I will think hard as I move ahead on these. The early enemies haven’t changed, I don’t think, although since I’m blogging about it on a more public forum than before, I suppose I’d better stick to initials in some cases.
Previously discussed enemies of my early creative self worth included:
Mother and sister I’ve discussed at length. My mother “encouraged” through rigid criticism – she was an art teacher, has never updated her methods or her understanding of other people, and is much too obsessed with doing things “right” rather than understanding that doing things “wrong” is how you learn in art. My sister was always jealous, convinced I was imitating her (a common and incorrect assumption of eldest siblings) and her default response to conflict is to be as mean and petty as possible. This, in adulthood, has not changed, and she also expects meanness and pettiness from everyone around her. I used to be angry about this, but now I realize that the woman lives in hell.
Community, in the small town I grew up in, is more complicated. The community really was my enemy in many ways. It’s hard to explain – in fact, it’s so complicated my biography might merit a sociological case study – but I’ll try to condense it to how the community worked against me: I was treated as a second class citizen, as on a totem pole below other girls. I was treated as though I were less intelligent until objective test scores and a sudden spike in my reading cognition made it impossible (and illegal) to continue to suppress my education. Certain teachers would single me out for strange embarrassments over disagreements with my parents’ politics and competition with them as other teachers. Mothers of my peers would find catty little ways to shame me – overlook good ideas when I was in a Girl Scout troupe (the oppression got really obvious, as the scout leader’s daughter really enjoyed and abused her power) , gossiped about me at home and of course there was the “well meant” body shaming that came with being a fat child.
Not all members of the community worked against me, but enough did that few moments passed without a reminder of prying eyes and judgmental comments. The comments got really gross when I did lose some weight. It became clear to me when I left for college and came back one summer that the community held a whole new tier of enemies, simply waiting to suck me into the town’s pecking order with full plans to bully me for the rest of my life.
Some of those bullies were quite rude to me at my father’s funeral last year.
Now, if I had to pick a new subset of enemies to my creative self-worth, it would include:
- My 5th grade teacher. You don’t forget a woman who yells at you for smiling.
- My 11th grade teacher, who actually liked my work but was one of the most insistently stupid women I’ve ever met. She once graded me down for using the word “entropy” because she did not know it.
- My 9th grade English teacher, who did not teach so much as he told us what to think. He loved to pick out my work as examples of “poor responses.” He had a fit when I interviewed a living composer for a project.
- My speech coach. Her head was so far up her ass I’m surprised she could walk normally. I did creative, original work and she constantly forced it into her narrow world view. She also insisted on viewing every other speech coach in the district as an enemy. In fact, the other speech team members and coaches were open and willing to form constructive friendships with the aim of making competition better for everyone by making everyone the best possible. If she weren’t a jackass she would have seen that.
These are just the obvious enemies. There were several underminers along the way – my “best friend” in high school hated it when I became the center of attention. She especially hated it when boys were interested in me. A girl I knew in college would tell me for hours how she didn’t consider me a friend, but wouldn’t respect my need for alone time because of her own fears. The editor of a newspaper I wrote for liked to make verbally abusive phone calls to me whenever I raised questions – I realized that I was actually catching her out on some very dishonest practices and that made me a real threat.
I have had a lot of enemies over the years, people who really were opposed to my success. This must speak to the enormous amount of creative potential and power I actually have.