I grew up in a red-roofed house in Hockley (nowhere), Texas. A dirt road hemmed in our front yard, or, more accurately, our front field. Just on the other side of the dirt road stood a fence that kept our neighbor’s cows from meandering onto our porch. One night, my younger sister and her friends snuck into the cow pasture to tip cows. I, ever the half-hearted country girl, declined their invitation to come along.
My family’s ten acres were part of a twenty-six-acre homestead that my parents and two other couples purchased together and divided among our three families. We bought the land because another family dear to us lived a short walk through the woods away from it. My parents jokingly referred to the now-shared estate as “The Compound.”
Unlike the barrier separating our front field and the cows, there were no fences between The Compound’s four homes, which soon became five when the walk-through-the-woods friends sold part of their property and another family joined our little village. Kids and pets wandered in packs, traipsing from house to field to whichever parent was close enough to settle a dispute over whether or not hiding in the barn rafters during Cops and Robbers was allowed. We fought and made up like brothers and sisters, just as quick to push each other’s buttons as we were to turn to one another for comfort.
One of the families had three sons who took it upon themselves to train my sisters and me in the ways of rough and tumble, which was, I suppose, better than leaving us out altogether. The boys covered us in camouflage and armed us with paintball guns, leading their new troops into the battle trenches they’d dug in their backyard. I don’t remember enjoying paintball itself, but I remember that I played more than once. The inclusion felt good, and the recounting of shared experiences afterwards felt even better.
Though I enjoy remembering, I’m uncomfortable sharing the cow-tipping and paintball stories; I fear they make me sound illogical. Did I like being an outdoorsy country girl or not? Was I compelled by belonging or activity or neither or both? Why do I feel like I need to be able to answer those questions?
I realize not everyone wonders like me if her self-identified introversion and confessed temptation toward disembodiment seem incongruous with stories of paintballs drawing blood. Not everyone fears sharing that her first, beloved vehicle was a Ford F-150 in which she regularly blared not George Strait or Reba McEntire but The Decemberists and Mates of State.
Well, others may fear sharing their varied interests for reasons of embarrassment, but not for reasons of inconsistency. My personal paradoxes pick at a soul scab—the one trying to heal the wound of forever wondering if I’m worth the hassle of getting to know. I wake up in the morning quite convinced that the answer is no. While the ranges of varied desires and interests I see in others intrigue me and draw me toward them, I find myself believing that my variances will repel others from me.
Are my many traits and interests like light shining through a prism, a spectrum of colors reflecting beauty onto the wall? Or will my many layers ultimately collapse in on each other, leaving behind a forgettable pile of rubble?
I want to share more of my joys with you. But I’ve seen the surprised looks when I throw my head back and snort as I laugh, because people expect less expression from an introvert. I’ve made jokes in front of men only to have them turn to my husband and say, “She’s funny!” rather than respond to me. I’ve gone full-nerd in my pursuits of enjoyment, and sometimes people just don’t know what to do with that. For these reasons and more, I shy away from writing about my happinesses, even as I regularly encourage others to write about theirs.
A college friend asked me once if I’d ever speak to anyone else the way I speak to myself. The answer was, and is, no. The road to undoing that reality winds long, but this column is part of walking it—half-hearted country girl paradoxes and all. If my childhood on The Compound is any indication, no one really cares if someone has the same desire for cow-tipping as she does paintball. Driving a truck at seventeen, or a minivan at thirty, while listening to pseudo-indie music could just be fun instead of sparking an inner-crisis. At least I’d like to think so, and I’m going to find out.
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