The first time I remember feeling cool was in kindergarten. Noelle let me wear her white high top Reeboks (cuz it was 1980!) for part of the day. I must have looked down at my feet a thousand times and I loved how those shoes made me feel.
The second time I remember feeling cool was a few years later when my mom bought me a Guess jean skirt she found at a second hand store. I was in fifth grade and I wore it at least twice a week and I loved how that skirt made me feel.
I was popular enough to not get picked on, but I remember mostly feeling like I fell juuust short of being cool. I never had the perfect hair or clothes or attitude or friends to really belong.
When I was ten there was an older teenage girl on my gymnastics team whom I idolized. Nancy was beautiful and thin and wore an INXS Kick t-shirt over her leotard. She used to throw up after she ate, so I tried doing that too.
It was the first time I intentionally caused myself harm in pursuit of being cool. And it wasn’t the last.
I had enough talent and smarts to build a life that looked better than average from the outside. Successful even.
But I was confused and deeply uncomfortable. The answer to my happiness was always somewhere outside of myself.
It was in the recognition I got for my athletic ability and my good grades.
It was in the praise I received for good behavior and not talking back like other kids.
It was in the brand of clothes I wore and the height of my bangs.
It was in the flatness of my belly and the darkness of my tan.
The answer to my happiness was in what others thought of me. And if I was cool I had a better shot at being liked.
So I worked at being cool like my happiness depended on it, because as far as I was concerned, it did.
And it was hard work. Digging holes takes effort and I got myself into some really deep ones.
Pretending to be someone I wasn’t was a soul-sucking full time job. It took 3 years to reach the bottom of my last hole and it felt like the most dangerous. There was no God down there and I knew that I was done with being cool. Or at least the old dark fake version of it.
That type of cool was definitely not cool.
So I wrote a new version and it goes something like this.