In light of my newly edited Gratitude page, I thought I would dedicate today’s post to practising gratitude by sharing with you some moments in my life where I did not “win” technically, but am still thankful for all the same. The following list is comprised of small events that, as insignificant as they may seem, have come to shape who I am today. Although at the time of experiencing these moments it seemed as though the world had stopped turning and life as I knew it would never be the same, ( hyperbole, of course) I like to think that they show me that sometimes it is good to not win, to get knocked off your feet. I’m grateful for these stories because without them I simply wouldn’t be me. And I hope you enjoy a little laugh or crack a smile at my expense.
1. At the age of two my parents decided to enter me into the Brampton Spanish Association’s Beauty Pageant. Why, to this day ,I do not know. Unfortunately I did not win, but was, however, crowned as Miss Simpatia 1995. Now contrary to what you may think, Miss Simpatia does not stand for “Miss Sympathy”, which is actually what I was under the impression of up until a few years back. Rather, it means Miss Congeniality, so really its not that bad. And anything that brings me that much closer to Sandra Bullock is pretty kick-ass in my opinion.
What this taught me: Winning isn’t always best. People forget winners. They don’t forget cute little girls who make the cover of the association’s month newsletters for winning a consolation prize. Also this story makes a killer “fun fact” during awkward group introductory ice-breakers.
2. I refer to this next incident as my introduction to self-awareness, maybe a hyper-self-awareness to be more specific. In grade three I didn’t think I was any different than any other girl in my class and it only took one boy to shatter that illusion. C.C. we’ll call him, chose one fine afternoon while we were playing on my driveway with our friends to point out to the group that I had a unibrow. I remember immediately making an excuse to go inside and begging my mother to pluck my eyebrows, tears streaming down my face. This was my first of many incidents involving the joys of being fair-skinned and Italian.
What this taught me: Honestly other than serving as a constant reminder that men can be both insensitive and stupid, C.C. did me a favour and sparked my long dedicated future to diligent hair removal. A relationship I pride myself on today.
3. I loved to dance as a kid. Still do. And although I always dreamed of being a dancer, my parents refused to ever allow me to dance competitively, which at 13 years old was pretty much the death of my dream. I really wanted to be a good dancer. I loved everything dance stood for; grace, poise, elegance. And I tried my best, I really did, but it just seemed like a race that the thin and naturally flexible girls were always winning. While I am now beyond able to appreciate my mom’s aversion to dance, dance moms and everything the community stood for, 8 years ago I wanted to be recognized as a proper member. One year at our year end recital they gave me the “heart” award- basically a nice way of saying “you’re not good enough, but you try really hard.” I was both elated and mortified.
What this taught me: if you are passionate and work hard enough at something in life your effort will be recognized no matter the outcome.
4. In grade seven I was in love with J.B, despite never actually having had a conversation with him, let alone being sure he knew my name. J.B. was a year older than me and in my eyes we were going to slow dance together after which we would rule the school. The pivotal moment to this romantic intersection would be the school trip boat cruise, or at least I believed it would be. I spent the entire cruise waiting at the front of the boat for J.B., imagining our picture perfect Titanic (yes I know how that movie ends) moment. He never came. I was crushed, but eventually I got over it.
What this taught me: That if you like someone enough, you can actually trick yourself into thinking they feel the same. Also, you must talk to a boy to spark a romance. Also, never wait for a boy. Finally, I’m a romantic; always was, still am. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Grade nine is most likely the single worst year of any student’s academic career. And just when I thought my year couldn’t get any worse I managed to have what is still my single most embarrassing moment during religion class, in front of a bunch of kids who seemed much much cooler than the 14 year old me. I’m just gonna get it all out there and say that essentially I put up my hand after reading the story of Abraham in the Old Testament and asked my teacher Mr. Hynan what “circumcision” meant in front of the whole class. He then proceeded to explain… in detail. Everyone laughed and I was mortified, but then a couple weeks later I made a joke about the incident and suddenly it was like it never happened. And more importantly I was no longer the chick who didn’t know what circumcision meant. I was Jess and I was funny.
What this taught me: that circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis, usually for religious or sanitary reasons. But actually, you need to be able to laugh at yourself. Seriously, a sense of humour can get you through anything. Also being less sexually aware or experienced is nothing to ever be ashamed of. In fact, it in and of itself can be sorta sexy in my opinion.
6. As I continued my high school career my experience with members of the opposite sex and their members didn’t exactly increase or improve. At a party in grade twelve, in an attempt to win over my crush, I told him that he was my “musical soulmate.” Not surprisingly this attempt at flirtation wasn’t exactly well received. But in my defence, I had had one too many amaretto and cokes, plus I had watched Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist earlier that day. I feel as though I should mention the song that sparked the comment was in fact by performing artist Kid Cudi… it was the only Kid Cudi song I knew. Our friends mocked me for weeks about the whole situation but eventually it blew over and I still see the guy from time to time today. We never mention it. (UPDATE: I recently saw him, and asked what music he’s listening to these days. He did remember. We both laughed.)
What this taught me: life is not like the movies. Also the word “soulmate” should more often than not be omitted from flirtatious dialogue.
7. This brings us to the present, where if you’ve read my introductory post you would know I have been diagnosed with Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder. Being told you are sick and will be sick the rest of your life isn’t exactly ideal, especially when you’re 21, single and graduating, and have the rest of your life to look forward to. However, Lupus is incredibly manageable and my quality of life will be great, which is more than most can say. My spirits are high; its just a little bit of Lupus right.
What this taught me: It could always, always be worse. Knowing my body is attacking itself and fighting everyday has made me aware of how important self-care and health truly are. I eat better, I live more fully and I appreciate things more, all as a result. This scare showed me how incredible of a support system I have, and even exposed some not so loyal people in my life. I am a firm believer everything happens for a reason. And who knows, maybe one day I will be working to advocate and spread awareness for the illness and the millions it effects.
It can be so easy to see the negative, awkward, or embarrassing moments of our lives as unnecessary events we wish had never happened, but in reality I think it is during these times that we learn the most. I often wonder about the person I would be if I had been allowed to dance competitively, or if I had been more comfortable with dating and boys during high school, because I know that that person would most certainly be different. I hope these silly little stories help you to reflect on times in your life where it felt like you were losing, and that they help you to realize the value in not always coming out on top.