LOUD. SPUNKY. DIFFERENT.
I grew up in a conservative, Christian, Korean household—strong morals, strong foundation. I was a very timid and quiet person. I had a group of four friends who I was very close to, and out of the five of us, I was the shyest, most naive, and most fearful. Horror films, boys, public speaking, standing up for myself—did I mention boys?—pretty girls, you name it. I was scared of it all. I hated everything about being the quiet one. There are some people who enjoy being silent, but me? I couldn't stand that I wasn't boisterous, opinionated, loud, and the life of the party.
Everything changed when I was in sixth grade. I was paired as math partners with the most popular girl in school. Even as I write this, I remember how scared I was of her and her presence. I don't think I uttered one word to her the entire class, even when asked a question. I just sat. I was so intimidated by her that it silenced me. She raised her hand and asked the teacher if she could switch partners because, “Mine doesn't speak!” I would say this was that monumental moment that changed the course of my life. I'm sure there were a million and one more of these moments, but this is the one that haunted me, the one that would eventually shape who I would choose to become.
Eventually, we moved to a new town. I saw this as a place I could start over and become whoever I wanted to be. I started wearing make-up and dressing differently. I became interested in boys, and as the new girl, I was very aware of the social hierarchy of this new school. I started off with the Koreans (who hated me because I wasn't Korean enough), went over to the gamers/skateboarding crew (who I didn't quite fit in with either), and then made my way into the "elite" crew. These girls were all pretty, came from money, and thought I was funny. Before I knew it, I was in the in-crowd. I’d made it! Little did I know, it came with a price, and high school would be hell.
Lots of people gain weight after they leave high school; I was the opposite. I went through my chubbiest phase during high school, and on top of that I suffered from depression. When I look back at my high school years, I have a bad taste in my mouth. I hated 90 percent of high school. I was bullied by juniors and seniors from my freshman year. They would push me into lockers, call my house in the middle of the night, tell my teachers I was a whore, write threatening letters, and the list goes on and on. I was falling out with my friends, and just not fitting in. I hated the group of friends I was a part of; I hated not being able to be me. Most of all, I hated what I was going through and who I was: a chubby, insecure girl.
Things got better after high school. College was an average time in my life, not anything great or glorious. I went to school and did what I had to do. I was always interested in a career in television. I've known I wanted to be a TV host since high school. I've always had a fascination with TV, with speaking into a microphone, with people listening to me, being able to know how to control a crowd or make them laugh—the person I had always wanted to be, from childhood.
I'm 28, and in this year alone, I have grown immensely. I had a dream job and was complacent. Then it all got taken away from me and I had to start from 0. I faced a lot of challenges, had a lot of breakdowns, but survived not by my own doing but by God's will and the support of my family and my homies. I fell in love for the first time in my life with someone who makes me feel like I won the lottery. And I'm fostering a Pitbull that has shown me resilience and the meaning of unconditional love.
I would say I’ve busted my ass over the past nine years and I grew up a lot. I admire women who hit their maturity stride at 23 or who just get life at a young age. I was never one of those girls. I'm turning 29 in two weeks, and I'd say I only started to understand life and myself about eight months ago. I'm a late bloomer. And though there were times I resented being so late into the game, I'm happy that it's happening now. This is the first time in my life that I feel like I'm growing up, like I actually feel myself becoming an adult. I’m experiencing so many things in my life right now that when I take a moment, I realize I'm living and I'm evolving. I'm learning, and I'm embracing me. I used to dread turning 30, but now I am looking forward to leaving behind years of being insanely confused, anxious, and lost. I know my 30s will have its own bag of tricks up its sleeve, but I am going to be so better prepared for the next era in my life, you have no idea.
My ugly duckling years were crucial; they made me who I am, and what I am becoming. No bully can take that away from me, or from you, either. So shout-out to those assholes who brought me down, who bring you down, who teased my sister, or made us feel small—because at the end of the day, all these experiences shape us into who we are destined to become. And I don't know about you yet, but “I think I like who I'm becoming” (shout-out to Drake).
— ELLIE LEE X UDD
Speak now or forever go insane.
Have you ever been in a situation where you silenced yourself? Didn’t say what you wanted, not enough courage to say what you could’ve? So, in turn you psychoanalyze the situation, over and over, thinking of what you should’ve said? Insanity.
WORK THAT MUSCLE
I think any time you give less than you know you could have, it’s a disappointment you can’t escape. My mother would always say, “You can’t run from yourself, because no matter where you go, you’re there.” I think these little #epicfail moments are great because they keep you humble, grateful, and most of all “in check.” And each time you encounter a situation that looks or feel reminiscent of that one, it’s an opportunity—to speak up just a little bit more and strengthen that rejection muscle.
And over time, after working that muscle, you’ll wake up and find your voice, and find it worthy to be heard. Like Ellie Lee, you’ll wake up and find yourself host for the Anime Network and People’s Style Magazine, interviewing celebrities, reporting on The Wendy Williams Show, VH1, and others. Heck, you might even find yourself with you own shown on MTV K, the pop culture voice for the people.
And she’s right, a bully can give you all kinds of hell, but they can’t take away your victory — the fighter, the purpose that was created from all the (bs). Only you can give it up, but they cannot take it from you.
THE FEAR OF REJECTION VS THE FEAR OF REGRET
It’s hard to believe that Ellie was ever shy. Trust me, her emails are full of personality! It’s just as hard as believing that Maya Angelou didn’t speak for nearly five years of her childhood. I once heard someone say, “Would you rather live with the fear of rejection or the fear of regret?” At this point in my life, I choose the “fear of rejection” — I can get over hurt feelings. But, a life full of would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. . .? Well, I’m not so sure, and I don’t want to find out.
Ellie didn’t retreat.
And I wonder, had events been different for either, would we have the voice they each so uniquely give, the legacy?
It all works together for good, if you let it.
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
— Maya Angelou (Author of I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing)
The fear of rejection or the fear of regret? How do you feel about it? Share with the community.