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Wise Beyond Your Years

I read several blogs on the ED Digest blogroll, and today I read a post by Tiptoe (http://betweenlivingandexisting.blogspot.com/) in which she stated: “Sometimes I think having been mature beyond my years was a detriment, kind of like there wasn’t room for that much more growth, because I was already there.” I completely empathize with that. It’s odd, when I think about it.

As a child I was always sidling up to the adults and starting random conversations with them about as many interesting things as I could think of. I was a sponge, and I wanted to know everything. I didn’t have much interest in playing with other kids… unless I was bossing them around; “directing” them in games of dress-up or scrutinizing the possible life scenerios of dolls. I mean, I did like to play. I loved swinging on the tire swing, I was a little monkey on the swing set, I loved jump rope and bike riding and practicing my softball throwing technique. (notice: generally solitary activities) I was, essentially, a little intellectual tomboy until about 5th grade.

I wrote poetry starting at age eight, had my first poem published at age nine. When I was a kid I wanted to be either an architect or a marine biologist. I loved to sit with my grandfather and I would describe people or stories and he would draw them (often involving eskimos, native americans, wolves, and horses) and I would practice drawing on my own as well. I just remember really enjoying being spoken to with respect and interest, not as “a child”.

I always felt different from other kids. Even as I started to go into my shell of insecurity and try to conform to what I felt I needed to be in order to survive public school… I still knew I was different. I don’t want to say “better” than the other kids, but definitely… wiser. I felt wiser I guess. Not necessarily more intelligent, because certainly others were smarter than me, but I always knew that being booksmart wasn’t that big of a deal if you didn’t have other qualities to go along with it.

As I got older, I often got the “wow, you’re so mature”, “Jill, you’re so wise!” and I’d just smile and shrug. I was just being me, often saying things which were, to me, obvious. Apparently in 5th grade I said something along the lines of, “it shouldn’t matter what types of people are together, as long as they’re in love. Love is what matters, nothing else should be important.” I suppose in defense of homosexual, and perhaps interracial, relationships. I honestly don’t remember that, but I do remember in 12th grade a friend of mine (the class valedictorian, no less) went on and on about how he’ll always remember that, and it meant so much to him (he wasn’t out of the closet at the time, but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume he is now) and I was really mature to say those things at such a young age.  

The thing is… I’ve always been full of thoughts. Thoughts and feelings… but the feelings always got pushed aside, because I guess I felt like (or was “told” through the subconscious actions of others?) if I’m so “wise” and “mature” to formulate such interesting and complex thoughts and theories on things… my feelings and emotions which might not be so mature or rational were incongruent and therefore “bad” and “wrong”. So I always struggled to suppress my feelings of uncertainty while appearing so put together and wise to others because often the words that spilled out of me sounded pretty darn fancy. But it was usually bullshit! Since I was afraid of my feelings I never let myself experience more than half the things I was philosophizing about… and without experience, words have very little significance. So on top of hiding my feelings, I had to convince people I actually knew what I was talking about, because to admit I had very little experience would be humiliating and unacceptable. How could someone so mature and wise beyond her years have so little life experience? 

Hi, circle of DOOM. This was obviously highly stressful, and an eating disorder is a lovely outlet for this circle to run it’s course through. Restrict! Only eat three foods, designated to specific times, take X amount of time to eat them, you better fucking count them out! Fast. How long can you go on diet coke alone? About four days, actually, thanks for asking. OMG FOOD. HOME COOKED FOOD SMELLS SO GOOD. You fat ass fucking failure, you ate a well balanced meal? How dare you?! Now you fucking ruined everything, you might as well binge on all sugar and carbs in the house. Go to the basement where nobody will hear you get rid of it. Stand in front of the mirror for hours on end, testing different angles. What do you look like to everyone else? Never show skin, you are disgusting, never show skin. Go read Wasted, you need to be reminded you are a failure, you will never be beautiful (because beautiful = emaciated). 

….what kind of person “wise beyond her years” goes through THAT thought process every second of every day for four years? A LOT OF US. The adolescent brain is still developing… and I really feel like being praised all the time for being mature actually hindered me in some ways. I felt stifled, like I wasn’t allowed to make “silly teenage mistakes” and I wasn’t supposed to “get emotional” because “I knew better than that”. Those feelings haven’t completely gone away. I still have a really hard time expressing myself because I think everyone expects me to be perfect, to “know better”. 

I don’t mean to be a whiney downer, I definitely don’t wish I was vapid and shallow. I’m just acknowledging a correlation, one that I don’t think is examined too often. (Or maybe it is, and I just needed to put it into my own words.) Comments welcome!

  1. April 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    The maturity thing is hard when you are young. Your peers have not caught up to you and don’t see what you are seeing. It can feel like a lonely place.

    I understand that thinking of how could someone wise beyond her years go through the dread of an eating disorder. We’re supposed to be smarter than that (at leas this is what I was told). And I agree that sometimes being told too much how mature you are just sets you up for failure. There’s isn’t room for flaws.

    Now, having been out of my angst-filled teen/early college years, many of my peers have caught up to me and have better understanding. Hopefully, yours will too.

    • 700stories
      April 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

      Yes most of mine have, or at least, I surround myself with people generally on the same level as me. 🙂

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