Yesterday I did a forward roll (somersault) on the floor at work in front of my colleagues.
It was to prove that I could do one. Because my Mum was once a gymnast and now a coach. And somehow it should be in my genes to do gymnastics too. (Note – a forward roll is the only gymnastic move I can do.)
I had a rather tight pencil skirt on, so the challenge was to do it gracefully. No, the challenge was to do it at all.
I got down on the floor, took a deep breath, put my head on the floor and then felt a bit nauseous. I wondered whether it was a good idea. I had not done a forward roll for about 15 years. Maybe more. I used to do them all the time when I was a kid.
The forward roll was successful. It was graceful but not without pain. My neck and shoulders hurt. I am not as agile as I was aged 13. I wondered if in the warmer weather, when I resume body balance, it will be easier to do a forward roll?
I was so pleased I could do a forward roll – and so were my colleagues – they clapped and cheered me on.
Even this morning, my upper body is still sore from this one forward roll. Maybe it’s the countless frangelicos and moscatos and champagnes and red wines of last night, though? Nah. Probably not.
The forward roll got me thinking – I often do things to prove my worth to the world. Not things I don’t want to do, but things that I am good at, to prove that I am good at them. And a lot of the time I’m constantly proving I’m more than a red face. Because there have been people I’ve met who just can’t get past that issue.
I currently have about six projects on the go. Full time work, freelance writing, TV, volunteer work at ChIPS, my masters thesis and belly dancing. Somewhere in there is socialising, shopping and seeing bands, maintaining this blog, and the everyday stuff like cooking (love it) and cleaning (hate it). Plus keeping my health (pretty good most of the time).
I take on a lot. And I think it’s to prove myself. That I can do these things. That I am good at them. That I am successful and articulate and committed. I need to clarify though, I do enjoy these things I do, and wouldn’t take them on if I didn’t enjoy them. Doing them gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment too.
For me, a distinction at university is never good enough. I’ve written about this before. Even though I say I aim to achieve 70%, and I work full time and do so many other things, as above, I know I want more. And when I got 78% last semester, it wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more. And then wondered whether if I achieved 88%, would that be good enough?
I wonder whether if I didn’t have a chronic illness if I’d be as eager to prove myself. Probably not. I’m sure I’d be a high achiever, but I think I’d feel a sense of permission to be lazier.
There have been many times where people I have met have expected less of me because of my illness.
I have been spoken to loudly and slowly: ‘So… What… Do… You… Do…?’ As though because I am red I can’t understand them, or hear them.
I have been underestimated by strangers: ‘It’s so good someone like you is working and not locked away somewhere.’ Because they may have put me in the same category as the disabled people who were institutionalised. Or they didn’t expect me to have the capability to work in a department store, or anywhere else. Or they didn’t expect me to be able to brave the public. Or all three.
I have been underestimated by people I went to school with: ‘So you’re doing your Masters? Wow. I only thought you were at TAFE.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with TAFE – I have considered doing some short courses, but yes, I have the ability, perseverance and the intelligence to study at a post graduate level.
And sometimes, they’ve asked others to speak on my behalf: ‘What’s wrong with her face?’ Because maybe they thought even though I was just talking to my friend/parent a second ago, my illness means I don’t have the ability to speak to the public.
I guess these assumptions made about me have ensured I strive higher than even anyone I know expects me to. To prove to the people I don’t know that I am not just a red face.
It’s strange because even though I am always being myself, and I know those I work with and am friends with and who love me know my worth.
But the sense of self success and the need to prove myself to others is always so prevalent.
Maybe I’m doing a metaphorical forward roll every day. To prove that I can do. To prove that I’m more than how I look. And to break down the assumptions people make about me and others with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
I think I need to ease off on the actual forward rolls though!