As a child, I spent a lot of time avoiding answering questions my teacher asked in class. I often knew the answer, but I was terrified of what would happen if I were wrong. I was afraid to take the risk of being right.
Time and again, another student would raise their hand and give the exact answer I was holding inside. And then, I would feel sad. No one would know that I was smart and had known the answer all along.
Years went by in a similar manner. My reticence extended beyond the classroom to how I expressed myself in life in general.
In hindsight, it is clear that I was always an independent spirit. I wore variations on a red shoe theme for most of my childhood (thank you, mom, for supporting my uniquely marieke taste in attire).
Yet, behind the bright, ruby slippers was a searching soul with low self-esteem.
I wanted to have the right answers, to say the right things, and to fit in.
It only took me nearly three decades to begin to realize I already knew the right answers (at least, the right answers for me), that I could say whatever I wanted to say because there was no one right thing to say, and that I did not give a flying *$#& about fitting in the kind of crowd that was deemed desirable in my youth.
Going through a divorce helped me realize how much energy it really takes to play a part in our culture. When I was in survival mode, I just did not have the extra oomph to make other people feel falsely warm and cozy about how I was doing. It did not make me feel better to pretend. It was also dishonest.
So, I started writing about what I was going through in this blog. What had started as simple writing exercise turned into a treatise and reflection on life, sustainability, culture, and transition.
I did not sugar coat what I was going through.
I did not avoid sharing experiences that were painful or even embarrassing. Those moments were a part of my choice to take hold of my life and create the reality I wanted and needed to be happy based on my own self and no one else.
And lo and behold, my words seem to speak to other people, those who had gone through a divorce or difficult time. Not everyone. There were plenty of people who responded defensively, passive aggressively, and downright aggressively. I tried my best to avoid them, even if it meant moving seven thousand miles away.
In writing about my experiences and hearing from readers, I felt less alone and less weird.
I started to entertain the notion that asking questions was more important than having the right answers. I also began to notice that I was not the only one searching for answers to difficult questions.
In my life today, I ask a lot of questions. I have found more often than not that when I am sitting in a room full of people scratching my head at something, I tend to be in good company. The moment I raise my hand and ask the question, I can literally feel the tension ease in the room.
So this has become my approach. I ask questions. I speak my truth and attempt to do so with kindness and respect. I try not to filter who I am. And I try not to worry about what people think about me. I know from experience that the people who really love and accept me for who I am will continue to do so whether I wear shoes that red or purple or covered with glitter.