Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
– Oscar Wilde
It is only in the last six years that I feel I have ‘been myself’. On reflection, that’s a bit sad because that means I have spent the better part of 40 years not being myself.
The question is – who have I been?
I don’t know the answer to that.
During primary school, I was the studious girl. I despised getting in trouble – but nonetheless, followed my friends doing things I didn’t want to do, and getting in trouble for it. I also went out and played cricket and kicked the football because everyone else did. I hate cricket and football.
During high school, I was still the studious girl. I still despised getting in trouble and, I am happy to say, I had matured enough not to feel I needed to follow my friends in their trouble-making activities. Mind you – I lost a couple of friends over this, and suffered several months of cruel teasing as a result. I know now that I am better off without these people – but as a teenager …
At university, and during the first few years of my teaching career, I tried to be the sort of teacher other people (fellow students, lecturers, colleagues) said I needed to be: dragon teacher, you’re all my friends teacher, teaching is my whole life teacher, fly by the seat of my pants teacher, jump on every new bandwagon teacher. You spend a lot of energy conforming to different ‘teacher types’, but achieve very little.
Socially, I don’t like crowds, dressing-up in costumes, drinking to excess or attending events where I don’t know most people. I have always known that I don’t like these things. Yet I have spent the majority of my life conforming and feeling might uncomfortable the whole time.
Pinpointing the exact time when all of this changed for me is impossible.
It may have started when I was teaching in Japan and getting incredibly frustrated by the national attitude that ‘this is just the way we do things’. This is fine, if you’re Japanese.
It may have continued the first time I transferred to a school where I was no longer ‘the baby on the staff’ – this was also when I started working with pre-service teachers.
It doesn’t really matter, because although I still do things sometimes to conform (and you have to in order to learn, grow and maintain peace), I can stand confidently and say:
- No, I’m not dressing up in that costume – I don’t like it.
- I don’t like the taste of alcohol.
- Thanks for the invitation (to a huge crowd gathering), but let’s get together at another time because I’d love to catch up.
- This is the way I am teaching this, because …
For the most part – I am me and I am comfortable with myself.
If YOU don’t like it – too bad.