Last night I realised I had two 25kg FedEx courier boxes that I neglected to unpack after moving house two and half years ago. I wondered what was in there that felt so vital for me to bring along, but was so easily forgotten. I took a look inside, and among (ashamedly,) stuffed toys, were piles of CDs, photos, journals, and letters that I had collected during my formative years.
Just like any girl, I decided to be reminiscent and take a walk down memory lane. I thought I would end up nostalgic and missing the old days, or at least find some cute Instagram-throwback material.
Alas friends, I was wrong. Instead, I realised how much of an awkward child I was.
I actually dressed in full-blown costume. I wanted to look impressive for my first ever costume party- it had an outer space theme. Somehow I didn't get the memo that for girls, a costume is basically a variant of a themed-headband and tutu duo. Princess costume: tiara and pink tutu. Bee costume: antlers and black and gold tutu. Mad hatter: top hat and colourful tutu. I should've picked up the trend, and realised that an alien costume meant bobbly-metallic antlers, and a shiny tutu. Maybe even some glitter on my cheek. This was my costume.
No words. And I thought I looked pretty spiffy in it too.
I thought I could write music and sing. And have an all-girl band consisting of me, my 2 brothers, and colourful wigs. Guys. I was actually 11 when this incident happened. I asked my dad to grab the camcorder and tape my brothers and I singing a song that I wrote for a pilot pens competition. Let me paint the picture. I gave one brother some hipster glasses, my casio light-up-as-you-play keyboard, a side-swept french braid, and beret. We named him Fatima. My other brother got a rainbow headkerchief, long gold hair in mini-dreadlocks held together by dozens of fluorescent hair elastics, a make-shift drum, and was forced to play it standing on crutches, because his leg was in a cast after a fall. And there I was singing my heart out about pilot pens, while hula-hooping at the same time. I thought it was the best thing ever.
Thank God there was no youtube back in the day. The only copy left is our VHS, which is now under extreme lockdown.
My Grandpa gave me Jenny Craig motivational cassette tapes as a gift. When I was in primary school. My grandfather had these steel filing cabinets that he kept on lock for years. Every time we came over we would try to peek at what was inside, but it remained a mission unfulfilled. Until one day he was clearing out all his possessions before he moved to America. He sorted all his things to be shared between his grandchildren. Everyone was jealous of my brother who got the Michael Jordan video tape. Others got treasured books with dedications on them, or semi-precious stone collections. Then came my turn. With a smile, he gave me a Jenny Craig set of 12 cassette tapes about 'the first steps to exercising'. He said it would help me.
I looked at the instructional booklet it came with and it read something along the lines of "Walking is not hard. You don’t need a membership, or equipment or special clothes. Just wear a pair of training sneakers. And maybe some comfortable track pants. It's easy- you can start today!"
I think that was the first time my face and palm were acquainted.
I decided to rebel in school while I had a mentally unstable teacher that endorsed "sit inside the cupboard" time That’s right. No sitting in the naughty corner for me. We had the bottom shelf of a cupboard to squeeze into (thanks grandpa!). And still I decided to have water fights, drench myself at the bubblers and run across the school bridges to get 'natural air conditioning'. Or run out of class to wet tee-pee the girls toilet's ceiling. I spent a lot of my time inside that cupboard, and I think that strangely explains the therapeutic effect confined spaces have on me
As I sit here laughing at my strange experiences, half mortified and half utterly amused, it strikes me that at the time, I never once felt that I was an awkward child. I don’t know if it was overconfidence, or a lack of self-awareness, or maybe just that I disregarded social expectations in favour of my own personal criteria. Maybe it was a combination of the three. Whatever it was, I miss that I was able to do things as I pleased and not feel remorse, or let an exterior influence make me second-guess myself.
In my alien costume, I walked around as if I was a mid-90s Rihanna, and even after that failed, it didn’t convert me to becoming a tutu wearer. When my grandpa gave me those cassette tapes, I threw them under my bed and took the instruction booklet to school the next day to ridicule with my friends. I didn’t think about it twice. I was happy with how I looked so I couldn’t care less about what my grandfather thought. At school, I still was a good student- I did my homework and was nice to my peers- but if someone tried to change an aspect of me, even with unorthodox disciplinary methods, I always resisted any impingement. When it comes to work and university admittedly, I've lost some of that fire. And nowadays if someone says something about my image, I'm ashamed to say it lingers with me much more.
Of course things change once we have responsibilities, but I'm going to try to take a lesson from my younger self, and undo some of that conditioning by societal norms and expectations. Just don’t prepare yourself to see me hula-hooping in an alien costume any time soon though!