This week in my class, someone said that they should always sit next to me so that I could keep them calm. This has been a recurring theme in my fairly brief school career – people saying or implying that I have a calming energy or something like that. I’ve always been a bit thrown by it because I feel like if you were to ask my closest friends to describe me, “calming” wouldn’t even make the top ten list of adjectives (am I wrong, friends?). But it comes up repeatedly in a school setting, in acquaintance sorts of relationships and I’ve been wondering about that and thinking it over.
You see, part of me is pretty good with that. I mean, calming is not a terrible thing to be. I am slowly uncovering things I am passionate about, things I want to do with my life and one of those things is that I really want to be a bridge. I want to be able to facilitate better communication, to discover better means of communication, between really polarized sides (perhaps specifically things like evangelical and… everyone in the world they’re panicked by) and being calming in a situation like that is not bad. It’s probably even a good opening trait to have.
Still, it nags at me and I realized that I’m afraid it’s because I’m conditioned to do it. I’m afraid that calming is what I do when I’m not being brave, that calming is what I am when I am being pleasing and placating. My father likes calm. My whole life I was rewarded when I was calm and I was withheld from if I was too much, if I was too excited, too angry, too hurt, too emotional. I am afraid that calming is how I learned to not be like my mother, that it is how I fought my way to the top of my imaginary mountain where I could call out quietly that I was different.
In my heart I am a mess of impulses. I want to be fierce and strong and brave and I still don’t know what that looks like for me. I believe it can look a thousand different ways but what does it look like for me to be a fierce woman? I want to be all of those things but I also desperately want to be liked, I want approval, I want validation. My neverending sense of need is not so neverending as it was when I was a baffled adolescent but I sometimes still feel like it is a hole I could trip into if I do not watch my step. And perhaps what I’m most afraid of is that the people who know me best do not tend to tell me that I’m calming, but the people who I don’t yet trust do. I’m afraid that implies that it is a front, I’m afraid that shows that it is something I do to make people like me, something I do to keep the volume low, to keep my own sense of safety high, something I do that shows I still navigate as Daddy’s Girl as a default way to placate the world around me. I’m afraid that it’s just proof I’m still afraid.