“Eleven months have gone by and I’m nowhere near the same person I used to be,” I laughed to my therapist. It’s not a secret—you can see the differences by looking at me. Aesthetically I’ve changed, but the real differences are a bit deeper.
I grew up with the understanding that I needed to be lukewarm, agreeable. I needed to sit still, look pretty, make good grades, and not make a ruckus. We didn’t talk about sex; we didn’t talk about politics. We certainly didn’t mention our dirty laundry. Neat and clean, perfect to the outside world.
That’s the South for you. Stereotypes portray us with picturesque landscapes and clean houses. Skeletons pushed so far back in the closet it would take years to pull them into the light. You don’t talk about your own problems, but you can whisper about everybody else’s as long as you start off with “bless their heart.”
I’ve heard people talk about “defining moments” before. I wasn’t sure I really had experienced any until I saw that there were sides of me that weren’t accepted or acknowledged by some people in my circle.
It was around the time I realized I wanted to display my own skeletons for the sake of authenticity. Vulnerability. Because I believe in the power of honesty and of relating to people. I believe in connection and the art of sharing the personal bits of your heart.
So, I started writing, pouring out pages of stories about my life and my struggles. Sharing the hard stuff, but also sharing the good stuff too.
That’s when it happened.
I realized how easily I could be applauded for a pretty photo or a fancy new job. Affirmation by the truckloads came my way.
But the room was silent when I wrote for the girl who might have similar struggles as me. There was no audience to witness when I wrote down the things I needed to hear when I was younger, the things people weren’t saying when I was the girl who needed to hear the words so badly.
I won’t lie—that hurt the most. That the people that watched me grow up, watched me struggle, shielded their eyes from anything that might knock me from the pedestal in their minds.
It hurt and it made me angry. But here’s the thing I realized: It isn’t pretty to feel anger. That’s an emotion that was looked down upon in my life. It’s not polite to even admit you feel that fire in your bones.
I didn’t feel anger until this year. I didn’t even know how to put the emotion into words.
I was angry because it hurt to be only accepted for the pieces of me that were easy to see; I am still angry. But angry Presley is just another side of me that will be shielded from the eyes of those who will choose to talk about me behind my back. “Bless her heart,” they will start. “She absolutely lost her mind, didn’t she?”
The defining moment came in realizing that I can be angry and I can battle that while accepting the pieces of myself that a whole part of my life chooses to ignore.
I can mourn the “bless her heart” comments while agreeing that yes, I did absolutely lose my mind; and it has been the most freeing and authentic thing I’ve ever done.
Eleven months have gone by and I am raw to the core. I get angry, I feel sad, I make mistakes. But I don’t and I won’t ever again choose to sit quietly with perfect lipstick and a suitcase of baggage for the sake of saving face. Because the hard parts of life are normal, and shame only exists in the dark.