words on: social anxiety, reputation, and ghosts of the past.

you’d think that carrying around a bag of ghosts would be weightless, but my past is heavy. shadows have mass and they hold reflections.

the only voices that transcend my screen are voices of hope and motivation. with binge watching and listening to motivational videos, you hear a lot about reputation. “your reputation precedes you”. but really, what the fuck does this even mean?

my family does not have a legacy. (and that will stop with me.) my family does not own property or have an heirloom that will be passed onto me. (this will also stop with me.) i was never taught the value of a name, the value of character, or the value of reputation - until i adopted long distance mentors and became dedicated to the journey of self-development. i do not blame my parents or grandparents for their lack of education when it comes to personal identity when their main focus was survival. when one tries to maintain air in their lungs, food on the table, and 2 pennies in their pockets, they can become quite disenchanted with the idea of a “personal brand”. growing up, i was scolded for lying, but was not taught the repercussions of it. the dangers of black magic on the tongue did not instill fear inside of me. in fact, lying was a way of escapism for me. rooted in ignorance and lack of self-identity, i would lie to create a sense of self: where i was from, who my father was (because, who knew? not i), material possessions that i had “at home” to make the dirty shoes on my feet look cleaner. lying was my security blanket. it was a sense of belonging that i created for myself where i lacked it at home. nine year old me didn’t know that lying was a knife cut into the same shape as my limitless imagination. creating fairy tales never had a consequence. i was trying to save myself from my reality.

enter my teens and middle school introduced MySpace profiles and the building blocks of reputation. i was a mean girl, a bully, and severely unhappy with myself. my curls hid in a tight bun on top of my head just as i hid my insecurities in my “blunt honesty” with everyone else. acne, glasses, my mother’s thick Syrian eyebrows that immigrated across the middle east and into my gene pool, a nose i hadn’t grown into: it all kept me in my non-designer bag. eventually, i began to understand the importance of companionship and grew to be nicer to everyone. popularity surrounded me. after eighth grade, i developed shape and developed a chemical imbalance. high school and college became purgatories for me as my depression increased after being raped. my PTSD and shame birthed social anxiety. under the moon, i grew wings as an anti-social butterfly. how i balanced being outgoing yet completely cut off from others is an art. i attract(ed) so many souls with my light but still manage to disappear within my own darkness.

with the power of social media, i have become somewhat claustrophobic in my early twenties. there is a web of knowing, of publicity, that lives inside of millions of hands. it has a heartbeat and a breath that we need it daily. everyone “knows” everyone - and i believe this false sense of reputation is what gives me anxiety. what do people think of me? what do people know about me? am being tossed around by tongues that carry thorns? have they only tasted the ghost of my past? will i be able to revive myself of adolescent decisions? sometimes i only crave privacy and complete aloneness. sometimes i take action and disappear. sometimes i realize that that’s not the way to live. maybe my vision of the future isn’t big enough if i’m fixated on the rearview mirror. maybe the scar tissue on my ego is not allowing for a new muscle to grow. every moment i meet a familiar stranger i think to myself that the world is becoming too small - but maybe i haven’t traveled outside of my head enough. whatever it is, i am fighting the release of this anxiety that i carry with me when it comes to my past.

without any salt on my tongue, there is an admittance that many of my relationships with others have dwindled or burned by my own hand, through my ideas of protecting myself, asserting my own worth, or choosing silence over retaliation. in hindsight i’ll be able to deduce if the actions i took were worth a lesson, but i’ve gotten to the place by the river where i can appreciate the stillness of the water to see my reflection. i am learning that forgiveness of self is a perpetual action that will not only be an astringent to the obscured wounds in your soul, but be the repellent of the closeted 3 A.M. mind ghosts that come to play and fight with your settledness. i forgive who i was, i forgive myself for the decisions i’ve made, and i forgive my future self for any decisions she will make, because it’s beautifully inevitable.

our reputation precedes us, but it does not need to imprison us. as i grow, my only desire is to become a person with a full, yet open, heart. i want to wear my intentions on my sleeve but be able to communicate them vulnerably and honestly with those who may not keep the same vision. carrying around a bag of ghosts for so long has made me stronger in understanding who i am and who i am not. the reflection of my shadow has given me the space to appreciate my light. if that happens to blind someone from getting to know the present me and keeps them stuck in the dimly lit backroom of my past, so be it.

olivia jade. Comment