Each semester when a new class begins we are usually asked to post a short biography telling others in the class about who we are. I try not to use boilerplate words since many of the same people are in my classes. Each semester I try to mix it up. This time around, I wrote the following as my bio for Mixed Race Women’s Memoir class:
I’m Maggie. I am a wife, daughter, friend, writer, artist, but above all I’m just me. I work every day to change how I see the world, and the way I seek to make that change is through education and shared experience. I am a liberal, an atheist, a feminist, a proponent of body acceptance. I’m a non-mother and a non-conformist. All of these put me at the edge of societal acceptance. This made interesting reading of the piece marginalized people and the power of narrative since I am a marginalized person in many ways, though not through race. I have a sincere desire to see this country in a more peaceful state when it comes to race.
Anyone who is a part of my life and does not know who and what I’m about, well, you’re just not paying attention. I don’t keep secrets. I don’t pretend to be anyone other than me. Anything you want to know? Just ask, you’ll get an honest answer. I’m not interested in pretending in my life anymore. I did that for 45 years and all it got me was several bouts of depression that culminated in a nervous breakdown in 2014.
After that happened, I started thinking a lot about life and relationships and why it seems I never get what I want from the people who surround me. The answer resoundingly came back to me, “It’s not them. It’s you.”
By this I mean that I wasn’t presenting an authentic version of myself to the world. I tried to befriend a group of women with whom, other than gender and location, I had nothing in common. I listened to these friends tell me I “needed” to have children or I would never be complete. I played along with the GOBC at my job and honored their special treatment because it was what I was told to do. I listened to their lies and obstructions as they informed me of the news I was to report. I ate lunch with “friends” and swallowed so many opinions and comments that I was sick with rage by the time I got home. I kept seeing my family and keeping quiet when they asked me over and over to go to church with them, even though they knew I was an atheist.
The only person who knew or saw the real me was my husband. And by the time he got home every day I was a messy puddle in the middle of the floor. Sobbing, unhappy, depressed, angry, anxious, and, honestly, out of my mind. He knew all of these things that bothered me, he knew there was no way to help me, but most of all he kept on loving me and supporting me and carried me through this horrible time. I still have no idea why. He only says, “Because. I love you.” And to him, it’s that simple.
The work years between spring 2012 and summer 2014 were horrible ones, ones in which I was doing the job of two people for much longer than I should have been. So, in the summer of 2014, I wigged out after being told by an awful old man that, “Nobody cares what you have to say. What you say doesn’t matter.” I lost it. I had no one, not one person in my office to stand up for me and say, “she was doing the right thing.” But it didn’t even matter. It took a real, true friend to calm me down from a massive anxiety attack and tell me, “They’ve painted you as the villain. You can’t change that.” A week later I walked out on my job and broke down.
In the two years since all this happened, I’ve had the chance to think, read, talk, make new friends, share, be inspired, and be myself. I’ve been unemployed, but that’s ok. I’ve almost earned my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve left that small town behind and moved back to Nashville. And now, I am unabashedly me. No apologies.
Everyone who has met me since 2014 knows me as Maggie. Since 2010 I have blogged and tweeted as Tinfoil Magnolia. So I chose the name Maggie for myself, as a grown up way of wearing the real me because I think it’s a name that represents the true me. Everyone who has met me since 2014 knows the real me. The me my husband always knew and the me known to my closest girlfriends, my sweet tarts. I am hot tempered, and a good listener. I am foul mouthed, but kind to those in need. I am reckless, but in the safest way possible. I embrace a live and let live policy. I don’t give unsolicited opinions, but if you ask you’re getting the truth. I don’t care about fashion or my arm flab. I love the “F” word simply because of how uncomfortable it makes people.
I don’t believe in redemption, and I don’t believe people ever change their true nature. They only camouflage it as I did for 45 years. The thing I realize is that if you aren’t showing the world who you really, truly are, then you aren’t getting back anything that you want or need out of it. If you aren’t showing your authentic self to other people, they are never going to act the way you want them to act. If you can’t stand up and own your opinions, then you can’t make change. I know people will walk away from the real me. And that’s ok. I know my family doesn’t understand the real me. They don’t want to know her. And that’s ok too.
Yesterday, I spent two hours in a situation that before would have sent me home crying and puddled in my bed. Yet, no tears were shed. I only saw the truth that the way this person sees me is, in part, her own creation, and in part the former self I used as a shield all these years. I handled it honestly, with integrity, and stood for myself. It was shocking for me to see how far I’ve come.