I was an ugly kid. I had red hair and freckles when both were extremely uncool. Remember how people laughed at country music before it became cool? Yeah, that was me—the stepchild. I was a tomboy and painfully shy. I didn't have nice clothes. Not even close. I grew up middle-class in a small, logging town. For extra fun, this town is located in the rainy Northwest. That means I had a roof over my head, mud covered shoes, and I learned to accept my brothers’ hand-me-downs as a standard back-to-school shopping alternative. I didn’t have any friends and I had my butt handed to me on a weekly basis—often coming home covered in bruises. I was the last kid picked for PE teams and I was the first kid slammed in the face during dodge ball. I developed anorexia by third grade, bulimia by seventh. These were not happy years.
My metamorphosis into “cool chick” status started around freshman year when [insert the popular, good looking boy’s name here] walked up to me in class and announced he’d noticed my boobs were bigger than the previous year (I know, some kids should be smothered at birth).
By sophomore year (15 years later), I had arrived. I had a steady boyfriend and a number of people I referred to as friends. But blossoming late isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The same people who dodge-balled my face and tripped me down the stairs were now my “friends.” I think that was a step up but I'm still not sure. I didn’t trust my judgment, much less anyone’s motives. It's possible I was bitter. You just don’t go through fifteen years of negative and bounce back feeling great about yourself.
MANY years later when I recovered from my childhood trauma and severe eating disorders, I met and married a kind, handsome man. If you ask him about his childhood, his first answer is always, “I was the fat kid with big glasses. It sucked.”
Does anyone ever get over these years?
Up until very recently, I thought I had.
I’ve been writing stories for twenty years. For fifteen of those years I merely dabbled; writing manuscripts, sending those to agents/editors, improving a little, and sending out again. Five years ago I got serious, joined a few writing groups, and I’ve made tremendous progress in my craft. But after fifteen years of rejections, how does an ugly-duckling writer take herself seriously? How does she know she’s arrived?
I'll admit those years of rejection took a toll. Even now, when a well-known agent or editor asks for my full manuscript based on a partial he/she LIKED, my first reaction is, “What kind of fly-by-night outfit is this? Do they have any idea what they’re doing?”
Seriously, it’s startling when you get a kiss on the cheek instead of a dodge ball in the nose. You’ll rationalize it. You’ll tell yourself it isn’t real. You’ll try desperately not to hope. Is it really, truly, honest-to-god possible you’ve arrived?
How did you convince yourself you’ve arrived? Or have you?