There's a kind of formula for writing a novel meant for a teenage girl.
You start with a plucky young girl. It's the author's job to make sure this young girl is likable enough to hook a reader. She needs to be pretty enough, or brave enough, or smart enough, or sad enough, or everything enough that it is believable that someone would fall for her, and then once that's proven, then the hot (sometimes immortal) love interest shows up.
And when you read a lot of these books over and over and over, that equation becomes ingrained into your head, and you start to think it's true.
If you are good enough then love happens, and if love hasn't happened, then you aren't good enough.
With my Theatre background, part of the training you get is knowing what roles you can believably play. I knew I could play goofy, or funny. I could play creepy or ancient or smart, but I believed, and I was taught by cast list after cast list, that I couldn't play a love interest.
It's sad when you don't believe you are good enough to be the heroine of your own life.
I had a list of reasons why the boys didn't like me. I thought I was too heavy, so I lost weight. I had bad hair, so I invested time and money in a hair straightener. I got a job, and started buying clothes from non thrift stores. I stopped singing in the halls, stopped laughing too loud at inappropriate jokes, I stopped doing everything I knew was wrong with me, but nothing really changed as far as boys went, mostly because I was so sad, and empty, and just a cardboard character of someone I thought I was supposed to be. And then when they did like me, I hated them, because they liked a lie, and not me. I hated the fact that I wasn't myself and that they liked me that way.
And then one day, Halloween my second year of college, I decided to dress up as a Family Studies major. I borrowed my roommates clothes, I straightened my hair, and I told every person I saw that I was a Family Studies major because I thought it was hilarious, and then I got asked out by three different guys and I said screw you, I am who I am.
That was the day I stopped straightening my hair. That was the day I stopped walking around in costume, and that was the day I decided to stop letting what boys think of me determine my worth.
That was the day I decided that my life was enough.
But I had spent so long hating parts of me that were authentic, and liking parts of me that weren't. I had spent so long listening to other people's opinions on life, and not enough determining my own. I wanted to be my authentic self, but I had no clue what that even was.
I could give you ten pages about the characters I was playing, but I couldn't give you a paragraph about who I was.
And so, my second year of college, while my roommates all went on dates, I put boys far from my mind, and I focused on me, on what my life would look like, and what would be enough for me.
I could have chosen anything. I had the freedom that comes from distance and age. I could see a thousand paths in front of me. But I chose one thing, and everything else fell into line.
When I learned who I was, and Whose I was, I was set free of enough. I knew I was a character created by a loving God, and this Author and Finisher (editor) of my faith had made me to be me. He had set a path and a story just for me, and I was just starting it. I thought the next step on that path was serving a mission for my church, and although I was scared to leave everything I'd known, I was so excited to set this self I'd chosen into stone, and share this knowledge that had set me free.
So I prepared to serve my mission. I bought the clothes, (costumes are important) I got the shots (needles are evil, evil, little things), and I studied the books and scriptures that I would need to learn. I knew was preparing myself for something. All I had to do was wait for my twenty-first birthday.
On my twentieth birthday, I was home for the summer. I was working four jobs at the time, earning the money I'd need to pay for rent and food for the entire year, (The scholarship I'd earned payed my tuition, high five fifteen year-old self.), but I had my birthday off.
That night there was the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen in my life. These orange and pink streaks filled the whole sky, and I wasn't content to stay indoors. I wanted to see the whole of it. So I walked out of my parent's house and into the Junior High School field that was just behind it, singing the hymn For The Beauty of The Earth at the top of my lungs as I went. I sat down on the wet grass and watched that sunset fade and the star pop out, and I felt so content with being alone on this beautiful earth. I felt so grateful for my life.
I stopped singing because I only knew the words to the first verse, but I stayed out there for at least a half an hour. I just breathed in my life, and the stillness of the night settling. Maybe it was the melancholy of spending a birthday alone, not waiting for someone, just being someone, but I changed from feeling proud that I was alone, to aware and sad that I was alone.
I missed someone, and I didn't know who. It was the person I would dance with to Louis Armstrong's greatest hits when I was alone in my dorm room. It was the person I closed my eyes and pretended I was resting my head on their shoulder when I was leaning back on my parent's couch. It was the person I was singing to.
I missed feeling like I was home. And I was so tired of being homeless.
I didn't know it, but I was finally ready to fall in love.
And just like a hero in a story, once I'd proved that I was enough for the only reader of my life (me), my handsome love interest appeared.
Not two days after my twentieth birthday, Darren flew home from his mission.
*Now this isn't to say I don't still struggle with feeling like I was enough. When I was engaged, I showed one of my sort of friends my ring, and she looked me up and down in confusion. I could basically read her thoughts, because we thought it at the same time. She was much prettier than I was. She was much more enough than I was. And there was this "truth" that the prettiest ones go first. And that's crap. Love happens when love happens. You fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. That has nothing to do with pretty.
** Nothing wrong with a Family Studies major. When I had my bridal shower I unwrapped all these presents, and I had no idea, (Toilet bowl cleaner? What?! I just fell in love, how does that mean I need to start cleaning toilets?) that I'd be expected to cook (Wait? Cook books, and Pyrex dishes?! I thought this was a love thing. I thought I could be anything I wanted to be. When did falling in love mean I had to clean toilets and make casseroles?) and I really wished that I had taken a few classes, especially on child raising, because I really flounder some days.
But I know where to look when I'm feeling like I'm not enough.