As the good 20 something that I am I stay pretty fixed on MTV, especially now that Gabi from Young Fat & Fabulous is in the running for the MTV TJ competition. GO GABI! Recently a new show has begun on MTV called If You Really Knew Me and as I was watching it last night it got me thinking a bit about a few different instances in my life, how I’ve become the person I am and what kind of person I still aspire to be.
If You Really Knew me is basically a reality version of The Breakfast Club where they take the outlook of different types of teenagers defined as what we in sociology would call their High School Master Status- you know the thing that you notice first about them and classify them as, unfortunately in high school that’s things like Jock, Geek, Cheerleader, Stoner, Class Clown… whatever, and follow them through the process of a one day program called Challenge Day. This day serves as a chance to break down barriers between cliques and individuals by forcing the realization that we all have problems and that we are all the same deep down, and attempts to be a tool to change the way students in each high school view each other.
When I was a junior in high school Challenge Day was actually introduced to my school. A group of mentors were chosen, and in a lot of cases were people who were leaders of each clique and some people who didn’t really fit in anywhere. That group was taken into the mountains and they did a lot of the activities that they do in challenge day plus a lot more in regard to being a “mentor” for the schools challenge day itself. When they came back they helped select a group of students probably around 75-100 kids and they were asked to participate in Challenge Day. I was one of those kids and I was interested to find out what it was really about. It was basically really close to what they show on the now MTV reality show, at first it consisted with ice breaker games to get us all to loosen up and let our guards down and then continued on to be a platform for the leaders to tell their stories and get everyone to a more open trusting place. We sat in groups with people we weren’t already close to and had to tell about our lives and share what they would know about us “If they really knew me” and spent a lunch hour building a connection with one group member individually. We also did the power shuffle exercise and hugged and cried and spread the love and ended the day with apologies, new friendships and a new understanding. For some it was an experience that really changed our lives and the way we interacted and for others it lasted maybe a couple of days but faded over time. None the less I think that at least for that one day it affected everyone involved. The next year we did it all over again and this time I participated as a mentor and the experience was beneficial again.
I hold some pretty strong memories from those 2 days and they actually feel a lot closer to me then a lot of my other high school memories, and I think that is why I now find myself 8 years later watching the show and getting teary-eyed every time. Some of the things I hold with me from those days I wont ever forget and honestly have become a part of what you would know if you really knew me and to me I think that’s worth sharing.
If you really knew me you would know that the summer before my junior year when I was 16 my father passed away suddenly from pulmonary fibrosis, which is basically a blood clot in the lungs. He had been sick but none of us knew that it was something so serious. I still remember that day like it was yesterday waking up on a summer morning at 7:32am to a phone call from my mother. I had left the phone in my room that not because I had been having a late night conversation with my boyfriend of the moment planning the trip we would be taking later that week. My mom told me that my dad hadn’t looked well that morning and that she had scheduled him a doctor’s appointment and asked me to take the phone to him. I walked from my room to the other end of the house to his bedroom not even looking into the other rooms of our house. He wasn’t in his room and his clothes for the day were still laid out, i remember being frustrated thinking that the whole neighborhood probably saw him vacuuming in his underwear again and headed back down the hall. As I passed our computer room I found him lying on the ground face first. He had hit his head on the computer desk and there was blood seeping into the carpet. My mom hung up and called 911 and the next thing I knew I had a dispatcher calling me back telling me to stay calm and to try rolling him onto his back. My father was a big man and more than I could easily lift and as I tried to roll him onto his back I saw his eyes completely glazed over and knew that there was no point. I picked up the family dog and carried her into the bedroom and cried until the paramedics arrived. He had been gone for 30 minutes at the point and they could not reassesitate him. He was gone, and I felt like it was all my fault.
If you really knew me you would know that this is one of the moments that has unfortunately defined the greater part of my late teen and my adult life. I ended up staying with my boyfriend at the time that was supposed to just be a fling because I didn’t want any other part of my life to change. I lost my virginity that I had been saving for marriage a week later. I fought with my Grandmother for the first time and our relationship completely changed and has never been the same. Everything that I cared about before and every carefree moment of my life felt like it would never come back. I battled depression, guilt, grief and a lot of anger and even now on the anniversary of his death and on his birthday I am still a complete mess. His death made me grow up fast and made me push to have a family of my own, even if that meant getting married way too young to someone who I knew wasn’t right for me. If you really knew me you would know that passed on going out-of-state for college even though I got into the University of my choice and never told anyone about it. Instead I stayed home to be close to my mom and the guy I thought was the ticket to my new family.
If you really knew me you would know that the first Challenge Day I went to was only a few months after his death and at that time during the power shuffle when they asked if anyone had lost a parent I was the only one but that one year later at the second there was myself and another 5 who had lost parents and siblings that very year. If you really knew me you would know that I spent at least an hour a week in a grief counseling group with these people who somehow became my friends right before losing their immediate family members. You would know that I felt like the angel of death for quite a few years and like my very presence made these kids lose their loved ones but if you really knew me you would know that now I believe quite the opposite and that maybe I was sent to them to help them get through that time of the life as an ear and a voice of experience and that for a long time this was one of the only reasons I had any belief in God.
If you really knew me you would know that before my dad passed a group of girls toilet papered my house for an entire summer and that every time it happened my wonderful father would have it cleaned up before I could see it and have hurt feelings or embarrassment and that on challenge day one of those girls apologized to me for that and that we are now as much of friends as we could be considering all the history between us. If you really knew me you would know that depression and grief caused me to gain 50lbs my junior year and that even though I had always been a bit chubby this was the first time I felt truly fat, ugly and unworthy of love. You would know that I got teased, stood up, laughed at and used because of that 50lbs and the 20 that followed my senior year and for a long time I felt inadequate as a female and especially as a lover. If you really knew me your would know that because of all of this between the death and the sex and the weight I developed an unhealthy perception that I was only worth what someone wanted to do with me, and a fucked up logic that equated sex to love and that I still battle with this on a daily basis. If you really knew me you would know that this fucked up logic has made me do a lot of things that I am not proud of and that I would be ashamed to admit, but also if you really knew me you would know that meeting the love of my life and being with someone who is willing to work with my on my struggles and love my unconditionally has given me a new lease on life and love and I could never be more greateful to her for that.
If you really knew me you would know that for so long I wore so many different masks, whether it be the mask of promiscuity, a mask of nonchalance, a mask of humor and for a long time the mask of a fake smile but that now for the first time in my life I am mask free and have been able to find a love for myself again, a love for my family, for my body,for following my heart and for being willing to put it all out there and stepping away from the fear and letting you all know what its like to REALLY KNOW ME.
Be the change is the slogan Challenge Day has adopted from the great Ghandi quote “Be The Change You Wish To See In The Rest Of The World” and I hope that by putting this all out there and having this site that is exactly what I am doing. I truly believe that everything is a chain and that every part of my life was necessary to getting to where I am now and a lot of that self discovery started with Challenge Day.
So what would we know if we really knew you?