Monday, January 12, 2009

A New Year's message to You, to You

I’ve been away for a lot longer than I thought I would be, than I said I would be and so forth, and while I’m super tempted to apologize and say that things will be better from here on in, I’ll write more regularly (and so forth), I don’t have to this time.

See, I didn’t want to be away. I wanted to write and I did do a lot of it, but my computer (and all the viruses it contracted) had its own ideas. I’m not totally sure if the matter is cleared up ‘cause I’m just not tech wired like that, but I am positive that current state of said PC is enough for me to continue where I left off.

Besides, it’s time for me to be here, time for me to write and finish what I started so very long ago. It’s the beginning of the end, I can feel it. And while many of you will disagree with the word “end” I’ve never personally had an issue with it. Everything comes to an end in one way or another; childhood, Harry Potter books (and movies); the Gucci 2008 collection.

It’s because ends make way for beginnings, wonderful beginnings. Just like winter snows always thaw into Spring, I’ll always be me, this crazy curly-haired writer trying to find her way one word at a time. But I want an end to the dream just being a dream; I want to capture the Me I envisioned for myself such a long time ago, the Me I gain a little more of, every single day.

It’s the Me I’ll never have if I don’t finish this story of here and now, my story. I want the rest of my story. I’m sure you do, too. So let us start the Beginning of the End, the rest of this story, with a story.

And, a question. Have you ever asked this of yourself: “What am I worth?”

Before I could be old enough to ask myself this question and truly ponder on it, it was asked of me.

My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Vinsanto, was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Maybe it was because he was one of the odder choices, I mean, being a man and teaching the fourth grade to begin with was quite an oddity in itself, but throwing pointy shoes and permed hair into the equation made for interesting hallway gossip. Still, Mr. Vinsanto wasn’t one of those teachers who was there for summer months off and a great pension; he taught because he wanted to, because he loved his job and he was great at it.

Even though it was a really long time ago, one of Mr. Vinsanto’s lessons in particular has always stuck with me. Actually it wasn’t even the lesson itself, since I really can’t remember most of it (hey, I was 9), but what he said in it that was so significant.

It was during a Religion class. Being a Catholic school we were subject to religion classes every now and then, where we learned all about the bible, the saints, pain, suffering, guilt, and who was flogged most effectively under Roman rule. Anyway, the subject matter that day was Worth.

How we got to that point is beyond me, but I remember, clear as day, Mr. Vinsanto looking all around the room, pointing his fingers at us and saying, “Tell me, all of you, how much are you worth?”

How much was I worth? I thought and thought, but had no answer. I could see brows furrowed all around me, but not one hand was up. Heavy thinking in a nine-year old universe.

“Think about it, as hard as you can,” Mr. Vinsanto went on. “How much are you worth?”

Hmm. Being young of course I put this down to monetary value, and concentrated. I knew I was definitely worth more than $10, and definitely more than $100! $1000 was a no-brainer too, but $100,000 started to sound steep, I mean, that much money could buy truckloads of Cabbage Patch Kids. A million I didn’t even want to think about, it was far too extravagant. Those types of fortunes were only for people like Queen Elizabeth and Scrooge McDuck.

$10,000 would cut it, I thought, maybe even $50,000 on a good day. I very apprehensively started to put my hand up in the air, noticing that others around me were being shy about the matter as well, when Mr. Vinsanto shook out those gorgeous black curls ever so slightly, flashed his pearly whites and said, “Well, I know how much you’re all worth!”

Hands went down quickety-quick. Fantastic! I thought. I took out a pencil to write the number down and show my family when I got home. Just imagine, my very own price tag! Maybe Oli could draw one up for me, and make it all nice and pretty. In my heart of hearts I secretly hoped I was worth more than Theresa, the teacher’s pet, while I KNEW I was worth more than stupid Bradley, who always threw dirt around at recess.

But Mr. Vinsanto didn’t give out any numbers. Instead he leaned a bit forward and said, most seriously, “You can’t attach a number to how much you are worth. You’re priceless.”

Maybe this would have garnered applause in an eighth grade classroom, but not in our fourth grade world. Most of us just sat there with blank looks on our faces after he said that. Priceless? What did this word mean? I knew what Price meant, and what Less meant, but the two didn’t quite seem to match up. Was I less a price?

Thankfully Mr. Vinsanto was used to dealing with kids our age every day, all the time, and so started to clarify. “Let’s imagine you were kidnapped,” he said, to which the class gasped. We all knew what “kidnapped” meant. “Let’s say you were kidnapped, and the bad people who took you only did it because they wanted money from your parents. How much would your parents give, to get you back?”

I thought and thought. The car? Maybe the house? I didn’t think they would trade Oli in for me, though.

But Mr. Vinsanto had a different answer. “If you were stolen, your parents would give away everything they had. They would give their lives for you. Do you know why?”

I thought I sort of knew why, but kept my hand down. So did everyone else, instead, we just stayed fixated on Mr. Vinsanto. “Because they love you, and because you’re worth everything they have, everything they can give. That is what 'priceless' is, it means, more than money.”

I didn’t look around the class just then, but assumed that everyone’s mouth was as wide open as mine. I was worth more than $10,000 and $50,000? I was worth more than $100,000 and even a million? Or a billion? What was bigger than a billion, anyway? And how crazy was it that I was worth more than that, too?

Mr. Vinsanto, amused and satisfied at our shock, sent his point home. “Each and every single one of you is worth more than money, or jewellery, or stuff. There is only one YOU in this whole entire world. No one else can do what you do, or be who you are. You are unique. You are everything.”

We had a special spring in our steps that day, Mr. Vinsanto’s fourth-grade class. Throughout recess, throughout lunch, throughout the rest of lessons and then going home after the final bell rang, we knew, every last one of us, no diamond on earth shone as brightly as we could.

Then, we grew up. I don’t know how the rest of the class has fared with that lesson but I’ve forgotten it too many times. I’m sure everyone does; other people tell us we’re nothing, we believe them. We read job contracts, mortgages, insurance policies and we believe those, too. Almost everything we have and everything we know can be bought for money and we believe in the metaphorical price tags on our heads too, when the reality of the matter is that no money could ever buy us, duplicate us, or bring us back after we’re gone.

We’re only a few days into 2009, and usually January is a pretty down time for me. It’s a new year, I’m back in the exact same place I was last year, disappointed, not where I want to be in my life, not looking at how I want to look. I pick apart my circumstances, I don’t like what I see. I stand naked in front of mirrors, I don’t like what I see.

Self-loathing, even in its most constructive forms, isn’t the most positive way to start off any year. I haven’t been very good to myself.

But this time, something’s different. Physically I’m not very far from where I was last year at this time, but emotionally, spiritually, something is changing. I feel lighter, happier. I feel free in a way I can’t explain.

So this year, instead of cutting myself up, feeling bad and punishing myself for bad choices, I’m trying something new. I’m going to try and love myself for a change, to forgive myself easier, to be more patient and overall, more understanding. I’ve given a lot more to people who have meant much less, even done less, so why can’t I give more to myself?

I’m worth it. Even if I don’t feel that some of the time, in fact most of the time, I do mean something to those around me. My family loves me, I crack my friends up. My boyfriend, bless his blue-eyed soul, looks at me in that extra special, sparkly way. My dog thinks I’m the bee’s knees. If I am worth nothing else in my own eyes, I am plenty in the eyes of others. I mean something in this world. There is only one Me.

There is only one You, too. You’re worth it, and this world would not be the same without you. So if there’s just one thing you take away from this long, long post today, maybe a little mantra you should carry with you throughout this New Year, even for every year following, let it be this: There is only one YOU in this whole entire world. No one else can do what you do, or be who you are.

You are irreplaceable. You are everything.