You cannot control the stories that others tell themselves, you can only decide what story you are going to tell yourself as you move forward.
This is something I’m still struggling with. A big part of why I had been so excited about maybe going back to school and getting my MFA was that it would afford me the chance to rewrite the story of my lackluster academic career. Specifically, it would be external proof of the old story being an outdated story.
Old story: Rosie is a lazy, unmotivated quitter.
When I finally realized that graduate school was only going to give me “all the things” I wanted in a temporary way with no assurance of receiving the tools/opportunities to sustain my hold on those things, I needed a new plan for “rewriting” the story. Except that I’d already rewritten the story by finally getting my OCD diagnosis and uncovering what all that really meant about my less-than-great school days. I even gave myself a snazzy reframe to mark what I’m capable of now.
Reframe: Rose is an obsessive-compulsive dynamo.
But even with the reframe and everything I’ve done to lean into it to ground myself in the work I’m doing to move forward, I still freak out over/over prepare for potential conversations with my family about whether or not anything’s really changed. It’s easy enough to put a new name on a thing, a little harder to shift your perspective to see how that name makes sense, but it’s a horse of another color for people who knew you “before” to make that shift for themselves.
And they may not want to.
They may be totally comfortable thinking of you as you were because they know where they stand with that person. They know where they are in the pecking order, as it were. And nobody likes to lose their place in line.
And the same is as true for you as it was for me.
In the old story, back when nobody (including me) knew what was going on with me, the constant struggle of being someone who’s misunderstood and constantly screwing up was my pecking order. Now that I finally have the diagnosis, there’s a framework for me to easily communicate what’s been up and how we all move forward. But I’m super-anchored to the old story of being misunderstood and on the verge of screwing up.
I reframed how I viewed why I was screwing up all the time, but I haven’t wholly made the shifts necessary to viewing my place in the pecking order. And by not doing that for myself, I’m not wholly able to hold place for anyone else to potentially shift their perspective of their place in the pecking order. I’ve been too focused on getting certain folks to shift their perspective to focus on my own.
But I see that now, and I’m focusing on taking care of my view of things. And leaving a seat next to me open for whoever happens to be ready to enjoy the view whenever they happen to be ready.
How about you?
Also published on Medium.