Secretly Stephie has been my online moniker for years, but there’s a story behind it. But first, I have to tell you the story behind me.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t one of the popular kids, but I was well-liked and pretty confident. Better yet, I was good at everything I tried (except sports and history. Always terrible at those). I won blue ribbons in art shows, had solos in the school musicals, speaking parts in plays, and was usually sent to represent my class in the math and spelling bees. I could play the piano, sculpt, and I even had published poetry in the second grade. My parents and teachers told me I could do anything, and I believed them. I would talk to everyone. Better yet, I’d make them laugh.
Then my dad got sick. My family got poor. I got sent to public school and was mocked from the start. I was the poor dirty kid. I ate to deal with the stress of home and school, and soon I was the fat kid, too. I stopped sleeping. I stopped talking. I was nine. I was miserable.
Being bullied – not the normal teasing and mocking that everyone goes through, but daily shoving and name-calling by 90% of your grade – is one of the most traumatic and damaging things that can happen to a person. I stopped doing anything that could make me stand out. I refused to raise my hand in class – one time I peed my pants because the thought of asking to go to the bathroom in front of all the mean kids was terrifying. I remember very vividly the moment it sunk in, when I looked in a mirror and thought, “Oh my God. I’m that girl.”
I did make a few friends that year, in 4th grade. Two of them are still two of my closest friends to this day. I was myself around these girls, and no one else. By the time I hit middle school, there were 8 of us, and we ate lunch together every day. At least once a month, we’d get together for an awesome slumber party.
One year, a new girl named Jen joined us at our slumber parties. One night we were all at my friend Kristy’s house, and I was my usual self. Joking, singing, making up games – I never shut up when I was around my friends.
“You’re different,” Jen said out of nowhere, staring at me from across the room. “Why aren’t you always like this?” I asked her what she meant. “Well, you’re … cool. And you’re funny. You’re not like this at school.” She looked at me thoughtfully. “You should be like this all of the time, Stephie. Why aren’t you?”
It took me a long time – until I went to London when I was 20 – to figure out how to be myself all the time, and not just around the people I’m close to. These days, I feel like I’m the person I was supposed to be all along. But before that, I was only myself around people who made me comfortable … people who smiled at me, people who seemed to like me, and people who always, for some reason, called me Stephie.
Stephie used to be a secret part of me. It took a long time for me to introduce her to people. But now that I have, I’ve realized that Stephie had a lot to say. In fact, she never shuts up. I hope you like her.
2 responses to “Why Secretly Stephie?”
I’m here! Bookmarks is set. Congratulations, lady.