Black Eyeliner vs Sharpies

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When I was a 17 year-old baby, feminist wannabe, I would take black eyeliner and scrawl words like, ‘slut,’ ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ on my arms and (if I was feeling really brave) my legs. I would also pair baby doll dresses with ripped tights and knock-off Docs. It was the 90’s and I was playing a part in a fleeting, feminist cultural mini-moment called The Riot Grrrl Movement. I was probably too young to really understand the steeped in irony and anger mission and message of the movement (I am not really even sure that you could call it  movement) but I wasn’t too young to feel the intense pain and power of those words. It was shocking but deliriously freeing to wear those words on my skin in full view (mostly to bookstores and Waffle House). It was a phase. The feminism and ‘fuck the rules’ attitude stayed but eyeliner became something regulated to eyes (thankfully) and although I did finally score some real Doc Martens, they now occupy a corner of a box in my closet.

I have been thinking a lot about that lonely, angry 17 year-old girl lately. Everything was so painful for her. Life was so very sharp and hiding and numbing, so very comforting. I was 17 when I discovered the fluffy, dulling effects of pot and alcohol (but mostly pot). I wish that girl would have had someone to illustrate the second and third act of that story. I wish someone would have told her that life was beautiful without all of that shit… But I don’t have a time machine and I know ‘should have’ is an epic waste of time.

What made me think specifically of my “Riot Grrrl” days was the very strong compulsion I have had lately to scrawl words on my arms and legs, this time in sharpie. Over the past few weeks, I have written, “Do the next right thing” across my wrists and “enough” on my ankle and the back of my hand. Is it my inner riot grrrl coming to the surface or my inner wounded teenager seeking solace and healing? Now instead of acting out, I am trying to take better care. I am trying to remember, not let go. 

Today was a bit of a shit show. I am trying really, really hard at my job. I am being consistent and holding students accountable, per mandate from my administrator. I try to pretend that it is easy. I am trying to move forward and stay positive but the tapes in my head, the ones that tell me I am going to fail, that I am stupid for thinking I could do this job and that I am only working for a recommendation at the end of the year (because I am afraid I am going to be laid off or worse, fired) are playing on a relentless loop. Being a hard ass in the classroom means that not every student adores me. It means that not even every other student adores me. Being a drunk last year means that my administrator doesn’t fully trust my judgment and still wonders if I am going to revert to my flakey ways. It all means I am not PLEASING everyone AND I am shocked and disappointed at how sad and freaked out I am by that… 

The writing. It all comes back to the writing. As a teenager, I wrote on my arms, in composition notebooks and on pieces of canvas to survive and process the horrors of my childhood and adolescence. As a woman, and especially a woman in recovery, I write to survive the horrors of my addiction to process the pain I have both suffered and caused via this disease. I write so as not to drink. I write to recover. I am writing here tonight so I can walk into the classroom tomorrow, head held high, possibly with sharpied arms, ready to keep trying and maybe even love myself and the world just a little bit more. 

Maybe I should try tattoos next. 


9 thoughts on “Black Eyeliner vs Sharpies

    Rachel said:
    September 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    All paths lead nowhere – choose one with heart. You can do this. I believe in you.

    itwasjudith said:
    September 11, 2013 at 5:46 am

    the feeling and fear of failure is very common. Because people are usually afraid to disclose their fears, we tend to think that it’s just us going through difficult times. I was recently doing some CBT reading and one of the case studies was that of a school teacher with similar concerns. I imagine that it must be a common theme for teaching staff, because it’s a difficult job really – having to be engaging to pupils but at the same time a lot of preparation and admin work going on in the background, as well as one own’s life. My mum was a teacher in primary school, but those were different times I believe, and she didn’t speak about it much, although I think she loved her job.
    Perhaps a way to lessen the fears could be that of rationally analysing evidence pro and against one own fears (so what we feel we’re doing not well enough); once there is a list, try to go through it and identify those concerns that are most important and plausible; finally try to address them by taking any suitable action to void them. The fact that you’re trying to get some of the management people “on your side” may be a good strategy to better the chances for a successful confirmation in your post. Networking is a very important thing. These are just my 2 cents, I have no expertise to base my words upon 😉
    It seems that you’re becoming a better teacher (from what you describe in your posts) since you have been sober and I am positive that you will be able to hold your position with a bit of effort (which you’re already putting into it).
    All the best, you’ve done well to come so far 🙂

      Maya June responded:
      September 11, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Today I “outed” myself to my boss. I was worried that rumors might start circulating about my recovery and AA attendance and that my judgment might somehow be called into question (this is a very small town). She was supportive beyond what I could have hoped for and shared that she too has quit drinking. We had a wonderful conversation. Her openness with me really helped assuage some of my deepest professional fears and insecurities. It is wonderful to feel that someone has my back.

        itwasjudith said:
        September 12, 2013 at 12:35 am

        Well done, it was a risky but wise decision. Secrets, especially in small towns, don’t go far.
        I’m so glad that it turned out to be a very positive thing! Having your boss’ support is a crucial thing and a source of self-confidence.
        You’re doing great, congratulations 🙂

    AuntieLex said:
    September 11, 2013 at 9:14 am

    you inspire me…
    also we must have been best friends in the 90’s…. love me some docs, ripped anything, and baby-doll dresses…

      Maya June responded:
      September 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Aw…Thanks! I am sure we would have been inseparable.

    Maggie Shores said:
    September 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I love this post! I can relate so much to my 17 year old self too! And that fear of failure! Ugh. I had one of those days, I feel the pressure at work, lots more coming my way! It’s a good thing, but overwhelming. I want to run away! But I have this necklace that i wear every day, it has a little pendant on it that says Believe! And that’s it. I have to believe. I can do this! You can do this too! Believe! Hang in and have a great day tomorrow!

    Maya June responded:
    September 11, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks so much, Maggie! Believe!

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