March 18, 2014

On Being Hacked

Have you ever felt hacked? I'm not talking about something that happens to your computer or smartphone. In fact, I can't seem to find anything in my research about the definition of the word hacked that I'm referring to. It's quite possible my mom just reassigned this word to mean something only she this is a practice my family is wont to do.

But I've heard the word 'hacked' used my entire an adjective. In this case, it means a state of embarrassment combined with awkwardness.

For example, you're wearing zero makeup and your rattiest sweat pants when you run into an old boyfriend at Wal-Mart: "Ugh, I was hacked to death to see him, I couldn't think of anything to say."

Does this make sense at all?

I spent the great majority of my adolescent and teen years in a state of feeling hacked. I don't know why exactly, but I guess I was so worried about what people thought of me that I wasted a lot of time and energy not enjoying my life.

Like at my 6th grade graduation when my name was called and my Aunt Bo yelled WHOOOO at the top of her lungs and it reverberated around the elementary school gymnasium. I was mortified. Or you could say I was hacked.

Looking back, I realize how blessed I have always been to have family that cheers me on...but at the time I just wanted to melt into the gym floor.

It happened in high school too...when I'd invited a new friend over and was trying to make a good impression. My little brother burst into the room waving a toilet plunger and running around like a banshee. Then he jumped on my new friend's back and screamed "Hey mom, I just beat up a big kid." Again...I was mortified.

I wish I were the type of person who could let things roll off her back. Maybe I've gotten better...I mean, hopefully I'm better able to deal with awkward situations than I was 16 years ago. Right?

Today, I am turning 32. I'd love to be able to say with my head up and my shoulders held back that I never experience these types of feelings anymore. But just the other day I experienced it again. I was invited to a fundraising event and saw that my former boss was on the event committee. I imagined myself bumping into her at the event and feeling hacked about it. What the crap?

Basically, I think it boils down to this: We want to control how people see us and what judgments they make about us. I know this is true of me. But it's impossible to do so. We simply cannot help what people think of us and why should we care? There are only 24 hours in a day and I don't think that's nearly enough to waste even one of them worrying about some random person's opinion of us.

So how do we avoid feeling hacked?

I think it starts with our own opinion of ourselves. If we are authentic and living life as our true selves, we just have to let the chips fall.

Next, I think we have to identify the people in our lives whose opinions matter (still a short list) and forget about the rest. Otherwise, we will drive ourselves crazy. I remember how I felt from about age 12 on and it sucked sometimes. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to care about what everybody thought.

We will make mistakes. We will feel embarrassed about it. This is unavoidable. But the mistakes we make don't define who we are. Nor can we allow them to keep us from enjoying our lives.

I'll leave you with this final thought. A couple of years into our relationship, my southern beau and I broke up. This wasn't like a "taking some time apart" but a true severing of ties. Six months had passed and I didn't think I'd ever see him again. We were both still in college and I saw him on campus. If there was a ever a time I wanted to just feel hacked and slink away, this was it. But something compelled me to walk over and speak to him. I think he was more than a little hacked to see me too. The conversation that followed led to our getting back together and now, nearly 10 years later I truly believe we're meant to be.

So I guess the moral of the story is don't spend your life feeling hacked and missing out on some amazing things. Be brave. If someone dumps you or you lose a job, it doesn't mean you are forever defined by this. No matter what happens, there might just come a time when you can laugh about it.

My Aunt Bo is still one of my biggest cheerleaders and the friend my brother 'beat up' is still my bff.