The summer of my eleventh grade, two things happened:
1. I went to camp.
2. I took a medicine that made me gain weight.
And on top of that, the camp I went to was dance camp. DANCE CAMP. So not only did I have to reconcile within myself that my leotards were too tight, but I got to spend my days hip to hip with teenie weanie other girls.
That summer, chunky, not-so-talented Kirsti had to figure out how to dance around life feeling insecure and misunderstood – every. day. Plus, I was the newcomer. (Apparently, lots of kids grow up going to the same camp… year after year after year.)
It’s interesting being the fat kid of the group. People give you all these glances and say things like, “Well, at least you have a beautiful smile.” Like that’s what I wanted to hear the day we were trying on costumes and everyone fit into one except me…
The height of my feeling misunderstood culminated the day before camp ended. We were waiting for dress rehearsal, and the girls began to exchange social media information. One girl looked at me and said, “Kirsti, do you have Twitter?” I gave them my info and remember them mumbling something about how many followers I had, when one of the girls let out a little gasp and looked up at me to say, “Wait, Kirsti, are you like, popular back home?”
Hahahahahahahahahahaha -- I'm not even sure how to respond to that...
I know I’m not the only person in the world who’s experienced the frustration of being someone on the inside that no one sees on the outside. Can I just say, of all the negative emotions in the world, not feeling understood has got to be one of the worst.
There are two things to learn about me:
1. I’m extremely lucky.
2. I have a sister with Down syndrome.
Those things, actually, go hand in hand. See, I may have experienced being misunderstood, but thankfully, I was blessed to grow up with Miss Understood.
My little sister, Emma, has this incredible ability to just get me. It sounds dramatic, but when I’m with Emma, I feel entirely accepted and completely comfortable. When I was leaving for college, I kept telling my parents how uncertain I was for how Emma would do without me – the joke is that the concern was really for the other way around.
Emma is my security blanket, my comfort, my go-to. I don’t do as well without her. I think a lot of it is because she just gets me. She understands.
When I’m bummed, she’s the first to comfort me. And also, the first to tell me to move on.
When I’m celebrating, she’s the first to dance around the house with me to our favorite Disney songs and with the best kitchen utensils (for our microphones, of course).
When I’m sick (specifically, when I was sick for 3 years and devastated I couldn’t sing anymore), she was the one, week after week, who’d watch me just stand at church instead of sing and then whisper into my ear, “God, please help Kirsti voice. Please God.”
There is no one on earth that makes me feel like Emma does: free, capable, like messing up isn’t that big a deal. When I’m with Emma, I feel understood in this incredibly unique way.
Which is funny to me, because Miss Understood lives her life misunderstood.
On the most basic level, she doesn’t speak clearly.
On top of that, she’s continually judged for her actions instead of her motives. (You know the saying: “We want people to judge us by our intentions, but we most often judge others by their actions.” That’s her lifeeeee.)
People don’t get her.
(Now, not always, but a lot of times.) And sometimes, she handles it immaturely – tantrums, hitting, cursing. But if you ask me, all in all, she handles it like a champ. She lets out a sigh, tries explaining herself again… and again… and again, let’s out an exasperated “aye, yi, yi,” and walks away.
When we talk about being misunderstood, we’re talking about no one getting us on this deep, emotional level. But what if no one got you on even the most basic level? How would you respond?
You just want to go to a specific restaurant to eat, but they don’t understand you. You just want to order by yourself, but they don’t understand you. You just want to eat a hotdog, but they don’t understand you. **This is the point in which Emma leaves the table to “use the bathroom,” only to actually be finding the waitress so she can order her own coke – one word she’s definitely gotten down.**
People criticize Emma all the time for the things she does when she gets frustrated, but I wonder if we’d do the same thing if we were always being corrected and hardly ever understood. I’m not saying that cursing is good, but I am saying that maybe she is cursing because she’s trying to express her frustration, and maybe the best way to address the problem is not to send her off, but to hear her out.
Yes, living with Emma takes more time. More patience. More blah blah blah… (Let’s call ourselves saints for “putting up with them so graciously.”) But living with Emma also means living with someone that gets you.
Emma’s an advocate. If you’re not in the room and someone is talking about you, it’s only a matter of minutes before she takes a video of what’s being said and texts it to whoever’s being talked about… but those handfuls of stories are for another time. :)
Bottom line: Why?
I think it’s because she understands what being misunderstood and misrepresented is like.
I know, I’m lucky: not everyone has a Miss Understood to hear you out and get you. But the good news is that you can be that person for someone else. (Yes – the goal of this blog is to use Emma Mutz to inspire us to be better people. Call me crazy, but I think she was actually made in the image of God, too, and has something to teach us about him.)
What if you sought to understand other’s intentions, rather than just judge their actions? What if you let people know that sure, mistakes stink, but they aren’t the end-all?
What if you got to know the chunky, bad dancer? (And if not for her, at least so you could get an “in” to knowing the jewel of her little sister.)
Who makes you feel understood? Comment below!