I met Shawna in the eighth grade, in Industrial arts class. We sat by each other and made our breadboxes. The class was kind of fun, the teacher was kind of mean, and we were fast friends. I suppose the thing we had most in common was that we were nerds. Not the good kind, where you grow up to invent the Iphone. We were the kind where you spend a lifetime trying to reinvent yourself. The kind where you recognize what cool is, but it doesn't look right on you, whatever you do. The "right" clothes or the "right" tennis shoes, just look stupid. Like you're trying too hard. "Oh, she's got her Nike's on! She's trying to look cool!" (actually said to me at the bus stop on the first day with the "right" shoes. I had saved my baby sitting money for this coveted item.) My brother was the good kind of nerd. The kind that comes with brains and later, a beautiful home. Not that he knew that at the time. Now he lives in the golden age of nerdiness. Where nerds invent wonderful things we all use. But I remember when my brother was in high school. He said, "Even when I wear cool clothes, they're not cool anymore- cause they're on me." I shared the story with a co-worker, and he said, "Hell, I still feel that way and I'm 28!"
That began my journey to understanding that there are many of us. People who never felt as though we fit in. People who worry that they will be found out. Someone will notice that they are not cool. It's funny how very few people there are who are actually "Cool." And how many there are of us who feel like imposters. We have so carefully crafted an identity that we feel is acceptable. My young son has decided to be the "funny guy" next year. He, at eleven, is crafting his identity. Shawna and I remember this phase. The phase when you dream of moving away and having the chance to be somebody new. Go where nobody knows you are uncool and you can be somebody better. New.
When I realized that most people felt this way, I slowly began to feel less isolated. I found that in college, nobody knew who was or wasn't cool in high school. In the workplace, people like you or they don't. I was able to start revealing myself to the world around me. I still fight it some days, but I mostly feel OK to be me. Just your average everyday super hot chick in the Midwest! Ha ha! I'm not cool, and I don't try to be. I finally found love when I was able to openly be myself in front of him. I'm scatterbrained and creative. I'm messy but OCD in the dumbest ways. I'm full of love, but stand-offish in a way that makes him crazy! He loves me. I am loveable.
Shawna and I have kept in contact over the years, with long periods when we didn't talk. She was raising her son while I was living the single life. Now I'm raising kids as she is adjusting to her new single life. We became Facebook friends and reconnected (That's the good side of Facebook). A few weeks ago, I put a call out on Facebook for people to participate in a project to practice lighting and posing. She signed up, and I was thrilled! I've been wanting to photograph her for years. I wanted to show her how pretty she actually is. I don't think she has ever seen herself that way. She doesn't carry herself confidently. But she really should. She's a beautiful, powerful woman who has overcome a lot!
Now Shawna has someone new in her life. Someone who thinks she's gorgeous! I hope her photos show her that he's right! She is gorgeous!