We’re born with no filter. We say what we want; we do what we want; whatever we feel, we don’t hide. And then we grow up. First our parents teach us us fairly sensible filters–like, “don’t put your hand on the stove.” Even if that’s what you want to do, it’s kind of a bad idea, right? Then there’s the whole, “don’t say everything that comes to mind because some of it will hurt someone’s feelings” thing. That’s critical to learn. Like when you were a preschooler, you used to say to me, matter-of-factly, “I like momma bebbah.” Yeah. Good filter to learn.
Then there’s this gloriously short period of time in a kid’s life when they get it. Aside from a few naughty and ill-advised things, they filter what should be filtered, but otherwise, they are uniquely themselves. They unironically wear feety pajamas, belly laugh at fart jokes, forget to brush their hair and could care less, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE things like puppies, horses, skipping in public, teddy bear hugs, balloons, and train rides.
Then another filter appears. And it’s unbidden. It arrives like a season. You smell it in the air first and then soon after, you realize its impact everywhere. No parent wants it to come, but just like the coming of winter, it’s not something that can be reversed.
It’s the filter that stops you before you speak or act so you can weigh public opinion first. It’s the voice that says “balloons are for babies,” right before you put your eager hand back in your pocket and pretend you hate balloons now. It’s the impulse to hide your face when your parents do something “embarrassing,” or the sickening uncertainty over whether your outfit will get unwanted attention when you get to school. It’s the you-killer…the worst thing to happen to humanity since murder.
It’s one thing to be selfless and put the concerns of others ahead of your own; its another thing entirely to be self-fearing, to hide what makes you special or pretend you agree, live with cruelty because you won’t take a stand…We are, each of us, a brilliant snowflake. But one day we hide what makes us special and different. We dull and doubt our genius because something in us begins to crave…approval, whatever that is.
We want others to think highly of us. And where can that esteem be found? The thing is…while I’m busy trying to figure out if Amber likes me, Amber is busy worrying so much about what others think of her, there isn’t much room in there for an opinion of me–and if there were, do you know what it wold be colored by? Her perception of my perception of her! Did you follow that? It really is that circular. Like a proof that negates itself.
What is the opinion of another? If you wrote down the names of five random people in your life, can you say, with certainty that you have an OPINION of them? And even if you do, is it always the same? Then what does any of it matter?
At this stage in our lives, we become lost in a dream, craving something we can never prove or see our touch–that gives us nothing more than the power we give it. It’s a dream of a craving that can never be satisfied. It’s nothing and everything.
And I’ve seen this in you a few times. Here and there. Small stuff. I’ve written about these moments in this blog, in fact. It’s a sign you’re growing up.
But here’s the thing, Ariana.
You are nine years old, and almost all of your peers are lost in the world of OPO’s (other people’s opinions.) They have been for a couple years. But not you. Not at all. Your brilliance and uniqueness are as white-hot and unfiltered as your temper. Your teacher’s notice it. Washington parents notice it. We’ve noticed it. We keep expecting it to change but it doesn’t. With rare exceptions, you still move through the world on your terms.
You are wholly you. I’m so lucky to know you. I hope everyone who meets you realizes that.