Freeing My Inner Weirdo.
When I was a kid, I was a total weirdo. Not in a bad way, but in more of a Harriet the Spy meets Matilda kind of way.
I was nosy, deep-thinking, inquisitive and completely precocious. I never minded social cues, often intruding into the depths of others’ personal space boundaries, posing the wrong kinds of questions for all the right reasons.
At age nine, I stalked around my neighborhood with a memo pad, seeking out stories for a cute but obnoxious neighborhood newspaper that I believed was truly important. And its purpose was not to achieve any type of recognition by others. I truly just wanted to know and share the things I had learned.
In wild summer thunderstorms, I would turn off all the lights, light a few candles, and sit in a circle I created with power stones that I had bought on a family vacation at an Indian reservation.
There in the dark, surrounded by amethyst, diorite, tiger’s eye and hematite, I would close my eyes and meditate — a completely untaught natural practice that somehow made me feel more connected to everything around me. It didn’t matter that there was no real magic. I felt the energy, I knew it was there.
And then, somewhere in the aftermath of a longstanding childhood trauma coming to an end and the precipice of my adolescence, I stopped looking for answers in the world that would help me develop the person within and instead focused my energy on navigating the world through other people’s eyes. I transferred all the single-minded passion of learning and writing I possessed into learning people.
I became a serious empath.
There’s nothing supernatural about reading people’s energies, just a finely honed skill that I have exploited to my benefit to this day. And to be honest, it’s a very hard thing to turn off. Just ask my husband. Being in the moment is something I struggle with, as I am constantly interpreting people and situations surrounding me.
Any talented restaurateur will tell you that there is level of sixth-sense-ness that develops after working years on the floor, anticipating and solving any problem that may arise. So, add my years of working in the service industry to my hyper-awareness, and you’ve got quite the bandwidth.
A familiar scenario usually goes like this:
Handsome husband, deserving of my full attention, talking about work while we wait for food at a restaurant. I’m nodding, but occasionally glance at a table across the room.
“What?” he asks.
“Nothing, I’m listening to you.”
“I know, but you’re also listening to that.”
“No, really. I’m listening to you. You were talking about the parts inspections.”
“I know you hear me. But I also know you are hearing that…” he nods in the direction of a couple sitting across the room. “What are they talking about?”
“I’m sorry. Are you mad?”
“No, now I’m just curious.”
I give in.
“They’re on a first date. It’s ‘not’ going well. He just said something about how many followers he has on Instagram, and she said she doesn’t believe in social media.”
He laughs, and looks at me quizzically.
“I have no idea how you do that.”
What does all this listening do exactly? To be honest, I’ve never truly asked myself that question until now. And in pondering it, I realize that I’ve created this tough outer shell, camouflaged in learning and adapting to others around me. I learned that humor is highly valued by others, even at other people’s expense. So I became funny.
I learned that if I wanted to hang out with the cool older college kids, but had no fake ID, I could get a job working in the bar and get access for myself. If I wanted to eat and drink at all the best restaurants, I could just get a job working in an industry that helps subsidize that lifestyle. And on and on.
I’ve spent my whole life building an infrastructure that allowed me to fit in and be acknowledged by the world in some weird way. But at what cost? How much of my life has been in pursuit of the things I truly wanted or desired, versus the reflection of what others desire?
Up until recently, I’ve never paused in my life long enough to reflect about the pace of which I’ve spent my life.
It feels like I’ve always been in a hurry. Teen years rebelling and working. Early twenties partying and working, working. Mid-twenties studying and working. Late twenties traveling and working, working, working. Early thirties settling down, working, working. Mid-thirties creating a human and working, working, working. It’s a lot to process.
But something about this year, this new place in my life, has triggered a reflection. All of a sudden, I’m starting to remember the young me. The wild, free, weird spirit who hardly noticed other people, much less spent any time interacting with them in the way I do today. Suddenly, that curious, spunky younger voice is starting to whisper in my ear every day, “Remember me?”
I’m starting to feel the magic again.
Perhaps motherhood has burst the well-made bubble that has allowed me to go through life doing, without taking time to process.
And now that my daughter is getting older and I start to see more of myself in her every day, I am reminded of that little, strange girl who would truly connect to things with no hesitation. Share thoughts without a filter. Unencumbered by feeling that those actions should be modified based on whose company I was in.
My daughter, now two and a half, is still a baby. Yet she needs less of my physical energy every day. This sudden influx of energy I’ve spent the last three years on another human is invigorating. I’m taking into account the desires that I’ve forgotten, dreams that I’ve let go. I’m widening my gaze into the world and remembering that what is attainable is only limited by my desire to achieve those things.
More than anything else, I’m trying to be cognizant of the person my daughter sees. And should she be a little weirdo too, I’ll inspire her to never let go.
Christen LaRochelle is a former Chicagoan, now living in the woods on the East Coast with her husband, daughter and spastic dog, Punky. On the books, she is a professional booze-hustler in the wine and spirits industry, but her heart remains in finding the stories worth writing. She holds out hope that one day her journalism degree will be as valued as her knowledge of fermented grapes and distilled grains. There are few things she loves more than traveling, humor and a well timed obscenity. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.