It was a time of first world hardship. I was staying in an overcrowded dorm during a sweltering Boston summer with nothing but a fan to keep me cool- but in the midst of a true tragedy a symbol of hope revealed itself: the red blanket. It seems odd to me now that amidst the heat I would find a blanket so appealing, however, its comforting appearance put me at ease. No longer would I worry about dying of heat stroke with the fuzzy cloth enveloping me; but first, I had to obtain this prized item.
See, the blanket belonged to a remarkably simple boy with sandy hair and blue eyes: a true New Jerseyite. I wormed my way into his heart, similarly to the way his blanket had mine. I had many an adventure with him, and even grew to love him (as a friend of course); but when it came time for our adventures to come to a close, I made my move. Thinking quickly, I hid the blanket away to where he would never be able to find it. He searched up and down and all around until finally he gave up and hobbled home to New Jersey-blanketless. I was victorious!
That feeling of victory stays with me now, as I strut around school with the blanket around my shoulders. Yup, you heard me correctly: I wear it to school. Not too often, only when I need an extra boost of confidence. Some people can find their power from the fullness of their beard, some from the size of the heel on their shoe, and some from just the simple action of smiling- you know, the normal things. However, I understand that confidence can take many forms, even if other people might not feel the same way.
I admit that I’m quite a quirky human being: I’ve never had an “inside voice,” I wear colorful rainboots to draw attention away from my unshaven legs, and others have described my style as “Yo Gabba Gabba preppy.” So, why should the things that give me courage be anywhere close to normal?
I still remember the first time I felt true confidence; one day in third grade, I proudly marched through the trash-filled hallways of Ralph Talbot Elementary, chin outstretched, showing off a massive pimple sitting right in the middle. See, as a young girl whose only knowledge of teenagers was through those little American Girl Doll books that were titled something like “Your Body and You,” I thought getting a pimple was a mark of maturity. The massive red bump created a shield of courage around me as I paraded across the pee-colored floor, and past the disgusted stares and confused laughter of my schoolmates. I strode up to my friend group, sticking my chin in all of their faces. “Isn’t it wonderful?” I asked hopefully. They stared back at me. I asked again, “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m a teenager now!” Finally, one asked timidly, “Kels, do you need a bandaid to cover that… thing?”
“No, silly! Why would I want to cover this?” None of them answered. They just smiled weakly and stared intensely. And guess what?
I still didn’t get the hint. My entire perspective of the situation was warped. The fact that I felt like I was marked by Jesus himself turned what were actually grimaces into grins. I believed that acne was a mark of beauty for the entire year, and I didn’t understand how anyone could think differently- but soon I reached middle school. There, after my beauty marks turned into boils, and I started to search for a new mode of bravery, I saw how something could work for some people, but not for others.
It was the last week of sixth grade. I sat in Mr. Toussaint’s math class one morning, staring at the white walls that stood in for the windows, daydreaming about what would happen if the projector were to just fall on his head. Bleak, I know, but my mood tended to match the room. We sat at dilapidated tables of 4, where we all fought to stay awake. That day, one of our desk mates was absent- or so we thought. She made her entrance 15 minutes after the class had started, strutting through the threshold as if she had just been crowned Miss USA. Holding her head high, she avoided eye contact with everyone as if we were her inferiors- see, she already knew everyone was looking at her. Once Laura had gracefully placed her ass into the cold metal chair, she said, as if nothing were different, “So, what did I miss?” I stared back at her. She asked again, smirk plastered on her face- she knew she had me entranced- “What did I miss?” Obviously, I couldn’t just let this go.
“What’s that… on your eye? Did your hand slip?”
“Are you kidding? This is a cat-eye, Kelsey. It’s the new thing?” Laura scoffed. (Yes, because looking at little sixth grade me, you could really tell I was a kid in touch with the trendz.) Anyways, even after the enlightening explanation she gave me, I still didn’t understand what this black wing was on her face or why it gave her so much confidence- all I knew is that I wanted the same strength.
The next morning, I stole my mom’s eyeliner, and expertly recreated the look. I came into school with wings that can only to be compared to Hermes’ shoes. Beaming, I sauntered down the halls, perfectly at ease- but that was the problem. I was only at ease. There was nothing bubbling from within that made me feel like the ruler of the known universe. For the next few weeks, I tried so hard to perfect the wing, and to get the courage from it that I desperately wanted- scratch that, needed. Alas, it never came. I was utterly perplexed; if the cat-eye boosted her confidence, why didn’t it do the same to mine?
The conundrum that this tiny- or in my case GIGANTIC- cat-eye had presented threw me into a funk; I couldn’t wrap my mind around the simple fact that people are different. No two people look alike (I realize identical twins are a thing, but that ruins my point so just shush), and no two people feel the same emotions for the same circumstance. Even if two people are in love with the same person, those people experience love extremely differently- it is the same with confidence. To this day, winged eyeliner gives me nothing but pleasure. People who know me will find that hard to believe, seeing as I don’t step foot outside of the house if my eyes aren’t ready to fly me anywhere- but come on, have I taught you nothing?
Lets circle back to what you’ve all been waiting for (or, more likely, have all forgotten about): the red blanket! I never would have expected to find so much power from this extremely odd souvenir; however, whenever I wear it, I remember my grand success from the summer. See, this summer was when I began to socially flourish. I started to put myself out there, create some of those “good vibes” the teens are always talking about (I truly understand now the meaning of the phrase “bad decisions make good stories.”). This red blanket reminds me of a time of adventure, a time of music, a time of love; but most importantly, it reminds me that I can get away with- excuse me, accomplish anything if I work hard and put myself out there.
So, I wear it when I need an extra boost! Of course, I’ve heard some snickers and gotten some looks– after all, it is something I hug to sleep at night- but there’s not a single fiber of my being that gives a shit. I’ve learned from experience, as you’ve seen, that confidence takes many shapes. Your power source is your power source; whether it be your friend group, your laugh, your cowboy hat, your bedazzled jeans, your fuzzy bathrobe, your acne, your eyeliner, or your blanket, keep letting whatever it is give you the courage to be who you want to be. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll see you on the street huddled underneath your own confidence cape!