I remember when I was young, I was never rebellious, just dumb. My friends did mature things that I was pretty naive to even though I was lowkey the equivalent of a horny teenage boy with no dick to stick in things. I learned about things through hours of sleepless nights on the internet. I didn’t learn much in real life.
While some of my friends were having sex at an early age, hanging out with older guys and smoking weed on the regular; I was just around. I didn’t get caught up in any of that. There were times I made embarrassingly terrible efforts to be sexy and failed miserably. Example: I wore a thong to class in ninth grade and almost gave myself a wedgie trying to show it off out of my jeans. Still, guys wouldn’t look at me. I was never the slutty one at parties. I only made out with everyone and then probably threw up somewhere later on in the night because I wasn’t very good at drinking either. I didn’t have sex until I was sixteen and I waited on purpose because that’s what teenage rom coms taught me was an appropriate age. I remember even calling a friend about it right after the guy left and being like yeaaaah, I did it. Because sex, amirite?
Fun fact: I had sex with the guy I lost my virginity like, eight or so years later. Nothing was like I remembered. It was pretty bad. I judged pretty hard. We never did it again. As a person, he was alright to me until he got weird/gross this year. I’ll respect on not getting into because he’s a newly father now………
I didn’t have a consistent adult figure to help me through life. Not even secondary like, a relative, teacher, mentor, etc etc. I had someone I viewed as an older sister when I was a kid but she passed away when I was thirteen. I lowkey had no one. It’s been weird trying to navigate life and raising myself mentally and emotionally. Especially since I’ve always been a bit of an idiot.
While I struggled with the confusions of growing up, I grew up emotionally faster than I was prepared for. I didn’t even know this was happening because I was just a kid. Reflecting as an adult, it explains why I was such an internalized mess for so long.
I have faint memories of being in a women’s shelter and the green pajamas with strawberry shortcake. This was one of my first real memories. I experienced death of others at a young age but dysfunctionally because most of the people I knew who died were young. It happened frequently enough while growing up that I had to accept it as something that was a part of life. I was too young to grasp the emotions of it properly. I took that into adolescence as well. I mean, I got sad but I never learned any grieving skills.
No one really took me seriously because of my parents and when I was young, I didn’t understand that either. I didn’t understand why the other kids in the Vietnamese community were so tight knit and I was such an outsider. I always felt like I never fit in. My dad used to try to beat the Vietnamese into me and my mum was the reason why we were so isolated so you can imagine how confusing that was for me. Nothing in my life made sense but because I was too young to understand, I didn’t really think much about it.
But I did know I felt bad things inside me that I couldn’t understand. I felt different but I didn’t know why. I had no one to talk to so I just kept it all inside. Getting yelled at or dismissed definitely helped with the internalizing. I wrote my thoughts out only to have my mum find them and when she could understand them, I’d get yelled at. Shame game was very real in how my life played out.
Though I didn’t understand, I had to cope. I had to cope with figuring out who I was while feeling like it was wrong to be me. I’d see happiness and connection around me but I couldn’t genuinely feel it myself. I was never jealous or bitter about it; there was just always this sad feeling that I couldn’t understand. I thought it was normal to feel the alienation, I think. At the time, I couldn’t tell what was from the trauma and what was part of growing up. They just seemed to blend together.
I didn’t tell many people about what was going on with me. I just acted like everything was okay. Partly to fit in, partly because I really, really wanted to be okay. I convinced myself enough that I was okay knowing I wasn’t. And just cool. I just wanted to be cool. Still waiting on that. But it gave me an understanding that I didn’t understand myself. I experienced things that people around me didn’t. I knew my upbringing wasn’t normal. Some people kind of knew but I spoke about it like a conversation not with any feelings. It was easier to pretend that I was normal too. I could always study how to be normal online while just pretending I was in my real life. I read obsessively about those who I looked up to and pretended this one message board was full of older siblings guiding me.
My lowkey coping and forced emotional growth kept me going through some of the darkest moments of my life. It caused an earnest in me that makes me more aware of the tough parts of life. I’m resilient for it but paired with my inability to think any better of myself, it caused for many, many messed up years. It kept my dumbass from feeling sheltered or entitled though because I didn’t ever feel important enough for that “privilege”. Because I never really acted out, I’d suffer quietly with occasional outbursts. I was innately attuned to my feelings but lacked the self-awareness to control them properly.
Growing up emotionally was my unintentional survival mode. Now as an understanding adult, it takes away the intensity of the shame I felt and the defectiveness I thought I was. Being able to share everything I thought I had to hide has helped me accept who I am more as a person now that I have less that I’m supposed to hide behind. I get to connect and feel the emotions I once wondered about. Maybe not to the level that I imagined but you know, I appreciate what I can feel. It’s allowing me to know what my actual emotions are and how to control them because I’m shedding the misunderstood ones away. I can understand what are sincere ones.
At almost thirty, my emotions are beginning to grow properly. They’re growing with me and with an awareness. Talking about it brings out the uncool feeling out of me because that’s how I feel with vulnerable shit but we’ll shed that.