In 8th or 9th grade, I remember a light switch going off. Click. I was no longer the goofy, somewhat naively happy teen who thought making silly faces was hilarious and who loved sports more than anything. Suddenly I was angry. I was angry with society and I was angry with my parents and I was angry with my friends.
I remember getting mad at a friend of mine over something stupid, and I hit her in the head with my notebook at school. As hard as a spiral notebook full of lined paper could ever be hit at someone. And I hurt her, probably more emotionally than physically, but either way, we didn’t talk much after that day. I walked around like a husk of myself, hollow inside, feeling cold and empty and not knowing who the hell this person was who was such an asshole. I’d like to say this was the only asshole move I’ve ever made, but that would be a lie. I still feel badly about that day.
Usually my friends were left relatively unscathed, but my dad got the brunt of it. He was an easy target. My pent-up emotions needed an outlet. Teenagers tend not to choose healthy outlets and I was no exception. Why actually deal with my emotions when it was SO EASY to just release them by starting a fight? YELLING SCREAMING PUNCHING. As a teacher now I see students do this to their parents and their other teachers. I’ve even heard some of them tell me they do this on purpose, and I marvel at their self-awareness. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, because I was too busy screaming and yelling and punching.
But, every time I got angry with any of the people I loved, and lashed out at them, I got angry with myself.
Because I wasn’t even really angry to begin with.
I was sad.
Looking back, it is clear that I was clinically depressed, not at my all time lowest low, but my first lowest low and not too far off from the all time record. But, who admits being sad? Especially if there wasn’t a reason? Sad is weak. Angry is strong. A strong voice. A strong punch.
Many, many, years later, my husband’s best friend, who he had known practically since birth, died in a horrific motorcycle accident. He was wearing his helmet, but wearing a helmet doesn’t save you when your wheels skid on some gravel and you end up sliding into oncoming traffic and get dragged to pieces by a semi-truck. Other than high school this was the most angry I’ve ever been at someone.
Yes, I was angry at my husband’s dead best friend. I was angry at him for dying.
“DIDN’T YOU KNOW WHAT THIS WOULD DO TO HIM?! YOU DID! SO WHY THE FUCK WEREN’T YOU MORE CAREFUL?” Why the fuck weren’t you more careful! LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO HIM! A broken record of yelling inside my head. For a year.
At this point I was old enough to realize this wasn’t rational, but that didn’t change how I felt. I was selfishly angry at this happy, carefree, kind, now-dead boy because I knew my husband would forever have a hole in his heart in the shape of his friend.
But bloody hell, I’m 34 years old. I think I heard somewhere that I’m supposed to be an adult by now. And adults don’t do that. Well, okay, some do. But not the adults I would like to be like someday, when I grow up.
And angry isn’t strong. Angry is weak. Angry is selfish. Angry isn’t even ACCURATE. It’s just there because it’s easier. It’s lazy. I know from experience that if I act angry enough, then I am sure to be left alone and can continue to avoid the real problem for as long as possible. It’s easier to be angry and mean and lash out and push away than it is to deal with my problems, my fears, my out of whack hormones.
So today, 7 years after the motorcycle accident, I’ll admit it. I’m sad. And instead of yelling and punching, I’ll make silly faces and go to yoga and give those around me a hug. 7th grade me knew what life was all about.