Monday, January 14, 2013

Middle School: It was the worst of times, and it was the worst of times. It was really just the worst time.

Today at work my lovely friend Michelle who is really just the sweetest little dove of a gal asked the seemingly harmless question,

"What is your worst middle school moment?"

She had spoken two trigger words: Middle. School.

Whenever I hear them, my entire soul shrivels up inside of me and I want to crawl inside of my own skin and hide there and just watch Harry Potter on repeat and cuddle with my cat. I shudder to even think of them now and to think of all the emotional pre-teen turmoil they churn up. Ugh. 

Middle school was the absolute worst. I'm not talking "I'm gonna run home and write in my diary and cry because Billy Joe Bob John doesn't like me!!!" worst. I'm talking "Holy ISH that girl just tried to set my hair on fire but she also says she's my friend?" kind of worst. SIDENOTE: That really happened. A girl who was my "friend" tried to set my hair on fire when we were hanging out. For those who care we are totally NOT Facebook friends!!! 

When I was in middle school I was fresh out of 5th grade and fresh out of being the chubby, curly-haired bookworm. Literally, I will never forget, in fifth grade, Ronnie, the boy who I had a crush on, literally looked me in the eyes and said, "You're chubby." That doesn't just LEAVE you right away, so I carried that into sixth grade. I had shed my baby fat, but I was still shy, full of anxiety, and counting down the minutes until I could go home and read.

I remember middle school was so bad my mom used to literally call it the "Asylum." She understood. She got it. I thank the Lord I didn't have one of those moms who was so aloof and so naive. My mom 100% knew how terrible it was, so much so that she literally used to say "I'm sorry you have to go to the Asylum today." Every morning she'd look at me and see the anxiety in my eyes - the anxiety of going to a place with mean kids and scary, inappropriate teachers and loud noises and she'd say, "Nina. Remember. Your mom loves you. Your dad loves you. It's going to be okay." 

This became my mantra every single day in school when things got bad. I'd sit there, enduring the teasing from the big kid named Demetrius who sat next to me in just about EVERY SINGLE FREAKING CLASS and picked on me. He called me ugly, made fun of my arms, was basically just the worst. I would literally write in my notebook, "MMLM, MDLM, IGBOK" which stood of course for my mother's saying and I'd look at the letters and find comfort. 

The anxiety started as early as the morning when I got on the school bus. I was the very last bus stop and the only person at my bus stop. Each morning I'd pray and pray that there was a single seat in the very front of the bus for me. The back of the bus terrified me and rightly so seeing as that's where all the burn-outs and tough kids sat and I just wanted to find my solace with the nerds in the very front who wouldn't harass me. 

The thing is, it wasn't just the kids who were little Voldemorts in the making. It was the teachers as well. Between my creepster teacher who favored the popular girls and that stupid substitute teacher who told me I didn't need to eat that Snickers, middle school was basically No Man's Land. You weren't safe anywhere! What was a neurotic twelve year old to do?

Well, I'll tell you this. Middle school made me brave. One day I couldn't take it anymore and I stood up to Demetrius. I stood up for myself and I remember the moment so clearly. We were in science and my ears were burning pink as he teased me and I remember snapping back at him, telling him he didn't have any room to talk or something like that. Of course I'm not endorsing knocking down other people as a means to justice, but for a 12 year old who didn't have God in her life yet and didn't know He was with her, I finally stood up to my bully and it felt amazing. And you know what? He left me alone from that day forward and actually, became pretty okay to me.

Middle school gave me an equally shy, little red-haired girl named Jeane Coale who is still, to this day, one of my best friends. Eighth grade came and I remember looking at Jeane in math and thinking, "She looks nice. I bet she likes Harry Potter." So I invited her to see the new Harry Potter movie with me and that was that. Jeane made my eighth grade year amazing. 

Middle school gave me the first time a boy ever told me I was pretty and years later, as seniors in high school, he became my first serious boyfriend. 

MIddle school gave me the first beginning of having a real sense of myself. Of learning what I loved; that more than anything I loved reading and writing and laughing and that somehow, that would transform me into the woman God was even then, creating me to be although I had no idea. 

Middle school was horrible and the worst and scary, but it was also so important. I see middle school kids now and I genuinely love them. I see the kids I would have been friends with and I just want to stop them and tell them it's going to get better and it's going to be okay. That all the stuff that makes them feel different and awkward and lonely, all that stuff is so special and one day it won't feel that alienating and that one day everyone will want to be different anyway and we'll call them hipsters and they'll suddenly be the cool ones and then everyone will make fun of them anyway so then everyone still makes fun of everyone so really, just don't even stress kid.

Because as we sat around in a little circle at work today and Michelle asked us the question and we all answered, each with our own embarrassing story, I realized that we all go through it. Everyone goes through middle school and we all come out on the other end. And somehow, amazingly, we are all led somewhere in life. That's what's incredible. I sat around and looked at everyone and genuinely thought how COOL it was that our lives led us to Los Angeles together. We all went to different middle schools in different states around the country, and somehow we all ended up here. 

So in the end, I guess answering that question wasn't so bad after all. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

lies about single, Christian girls

It's happening. 

The flexing fingers, the nervous glances and the darting of questions. The dark cloud looming overhead - the nagging in the back of the mind that just won't go away. The perpetual tick-tock-tick-tock until I really, really just want to scream for everyone to CALM DOWN!

That's right. Everyone's in love.

Well, except me.

And that's fine. I'm cool with that. But doesn't it seem like everyone's got a rang on their fanger lately? Love is in the AIR! Like, literally, floating around in little hearts, chubby cherubs pointing their love-filled arrows at people, getting everyone all chummy and cuddly and couple-y.

It's like it almost happened overnight. One day I was a young, carefree gal in college, galavanting around the city streets, relishing in my youth and charm and the next BAM! 

I'm 23 years old. Half of my friends are either married, engaged or have boyfriends. People have real jobs. ISH IS GETTIN' REAL!

It's right about to give me a panic attack y'all. Here's the thing: I'm genuinely happy for my friends who are genuinely happy. Love it. 

But I also feel a strange pressure not only being single, but being a single Christian female in Los Angeles. I was brought up in a strong, female household. My mom taught my sisters and I from a very young age to be educated, independent and confident. I wouldn't trade this upbringing for the world and it molded me into the delightful lady that I am today. Weeee.

But then I became a Christian. And then I realized people who are Christians get married younnnnggg. And then Pinterest was created and all hell broke loose. 

There is a strange pressure in the Christian community to find your spouse before you're 30. I don't know where this comes from or where this anxiety comes from that we'll never meet anyone after 30, but it's there and it's real. You can try to deny it but talk to ANY Christian woman, single or married, and she'll agree. I know she will because I've had this discussion like a BAGILLION TIMES!!!!!! What do you think community group prayer time is for, duh-DOI! Just kidding. Kind of. You be the judge. Wait don't, we're not supposed to judge, DAMMIT I'M THE WORST!

Here's the thing, marriage is so beautiful and so wonderful and I am so happy that I am surrounded by plenty of married women who exhibit what it is to be an amazing wife and woman of God. That is FAB because it's just encouraging me for when the time comes when I DO say "I Do" to Zac Efron and everyone starts crying and we dance out of the reception hall to High School Musical. 

But at the same time, I want to enjoy my time being single and I don't want to feel like a freak or gross because I'm not even anywhere CLOSE to dating someone. Just because I'm Christian and single doesn't mean I'm on the prowl for a husband, which I think is a BIG misconception some guys might have about girls. Like, just cause I say hi to you doesn't mean I want you to wife me up boy! 

Now you may come at me and be like NINA! YOU ALWAYS TALK ABOUT MARRYING CELEBZ. And yeah, I do, because let's be honest, would YOU deny Andrew Garfield proposing? Um, no, didn't think so.

But the truth of the matter is, and I don't care how cliche it sounds, God teaches us so, SO much through everything we go through. He teaches us through our relationships with other people but also with being alone. There is this entire world out there for us to enjoy - music and art and food and dancing and people and culture. It's vivid and bright and spectacular. I don't want to be the kind of person that misses out on these things just because I'm too worried I might not meet anyone. I so deeply admire women who are fierce and smart and beautiful and kind not because of their relationship status but because of their character and who they are.

I want to lift up my friends who are in relationships because it is so awesome. And I want to lift up my friends who aren't because it is also awesome. EVERYTHING'S JUST AWESOME...hey guys do I sound like a Taylor Swift song yet? I digress.

Let's be thankful for where we are right now! Because this is what we HAVE right now and it is a gift! And who doesn't love GIFTS ya big lugs!!?

xoxoox gossip girl

google image: stressing out....kittttyyy!!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

in which i critique New Year's Eve roast beef

There’s this home video my family has that I think pretty much sums up who I am in twenty seconds. I’m roughly nine years old and have the beginnings of a unibrow. Of course, I’m completely oblivious to said unibrow and blissfully happy with my terrible middle-part and frizzy hair, Winnie-the-Pooh overalls and velvet pink turtleneck. It always pains me just a little bit to watch myself on the video—have you seen little girls these days? It’s like every mom is trying to show just how fashionable they can be and dress their kids like they just stepped out of an Anthropologie ad, ready to be instagrammed with their iPhones at any given candid moment. Which is awesome. I have nothing against iPhones and Anthropologie and trendy moms. I’m just saying it really amplifies the embarrassment of my own childhood.

Anyway, in this home video it’s our family’s Christmas celebration on New Year’s Eve. We’re at my aunt and uncle’s house with cousins and my grandmom and grandpop, and as if watching my unibrowed-chubby-overalls wearing self wasn’t weird enough my two little golden-haired sisters look absolutely adorable. They are each about two feet shorter than me and petite and just more pleasant to look at. I’m the overweight one with the deep voice, smiling and waving at the camera every five seconds.
It may sound like I’m bitterly reflecting over my nine year old self, but that’s not true. I love my little self and after the initial “Ughhh, mom, WHY did you let me wear that and look like that and obviously you should have just controlled everything I ate only so I could resent you later in life instead of letting me be a free little nine year old!!!” I smile fondly at myself. It’s like looking back at an old friend, one that is close to my heart but also who I don’t really want to see everyday.
The part that really made my family and I burst out laughing when we watched it many years later was my commentary on the roast beef. It’s great, it really is. Here we are all seated at the dinner table and my aunt, who is recording the entire spectacle, is telling us to wave “Hi!” and say “Happy New Year’s!” Of course I’m the only one who actually obeys and over-eagerly brandishes my hand in front of the camera, so much so that my aunt has to step back a little.
“Happy New Year’s!” I yell, and finally my sisters do the same. And then I look at the camera, all wide-eyed and excited and I’m NINE FREAKING YEARS OLD and I say “Great roast beef, great!” And just keep walking, probably to the kitchen and probably to the roast beef.
See. There it is. The entirety of who I am summed up in seconds of my nine year old self. I’m critiquing the food and I’m nine.
We all laughed when we watched this, and I know my mother and sisters look at it with love but later, after we watched it and I went back to doing whatever it was I was doing (most definitely not eating roast beef) I felt like crying. And raising my fists to the Heavens and shouting, “Why me God?! Oh why do you plague me with the curse of harboring a unibrow at the tender age of nine, and these cursed chubby cheeks and unruly brown curls? Why did you make me like this?!”
It’s stupid, I know, to feel these things. And after I sat there, stewing in my hatred for not being a delicate little girl, I realized that more than the feelings of annoyance and bitterness toward this past self, I felt a deep and honest love. It’s the kind of love that is reserved for my sisters. I love my sisters more than I thought it was possible to love another human being and while, yes, they get on my nerves and we fight and argue and sometimes I just want to yell at them (Sorry Rebecca and Christina, you know it’s true) I love them so much. It’s a constant, a deep, concrete verb that is so much more than a feeling.
And as I looked at myself on screen, I saw a child of the Creator of the Universe. It wasn’t that I felt all this love towards me. It’s that I felt a surge of love for God.
Because we live in a day and age where we're always taught to look and feel and act a certain way. That if we aren't a size two we aren't beautiful. That if we aren't married by the time we're thirty and if we don't have these beliefs or drive that car we suck. I'm so sick of the world and people telling me I suck when God tells me everyday He loves me. I want to hear His voice above all the rest.
And I guess, really, I just want to get back to the root of who I am. Back to that chubby little girl who just loved her New Year's Eve roast beef.