Some time in elementary school, I became aware that certain people sparkled. And I was certainly not one of them. The same little boys and girls got picked for speaking parts in assemblies, for special awards, as “kindergarten” safeties. Some people got ribbons and medals. My sisters have more swim team ribbons than they can count. They are very good at swimming. I am proud of them.

I did not learn to sparkle in middle school. It got better. Some. I didn’t get bullied as much. That was nice. But I could not sparkle, no matter how hard I tried. I ran for things and tried out for things and volunteered for things. I tried to force myself to sparkle. But my name was never on the results sheet. I didn’t sparkle.

I did ask my parents if I could join Mensa. I wanted a certificate for being smart.

I went off to high school, sure that this time I would learn to sparkle. I was with my people! The people who didn’t think it was weird that I knew an absurd amount about the Plantagenet kings or wrote poetry. Surely here I could learn. But I was a little fish in a big pond.

I remember one day in freshman English a girl told me she thought I was smart. She’s dead now, murdered. I wonder if she ever knew how reassuring that comment was.

Spoiler alert: I did not learn to sparkle in high school. I did learn to give. I learned to give everything I had, so much so that after every state meet, I would cry. It wasn’t that I was sad; I had just spent an entire weekend giving and I was a little exhausted. I happily gave them everything I had, even if it hurt sometimes. I stayed up until 2 AM reading about the Constitution and post-World War I naval disarmament and doing my calculus homework. I was, perhaps, a little less invisible than I used to be. But invisibility does not really admit of degrees. You either sparkle or you don’t.

And now I am in college and I have despaired of ever learning to sparkle. I have tried to paint myself with sparkles and I have rubbed them off again because they do me no good. I am not a sparkly person. I am quiet. I am watching. I notice who needs a hug, who feels left out, who is a little more irritable than usual. I can give and give and give. But I do not sparkle and so I am not enough. Other people will lead clubs and sit on boards. They will decide the programs and the times and the speakers and at the end of the year, they will get the awards, the speeches, the recognition. They will get to give themselves. I will not. I am not a sparkly person, and so my gifts are not worth much. I remember reading some forum post by a mother worried about her young son, who was left out of everything. She said that she told him it will get better. I didn’t say it then, but I’ll say it now: no it wont. You’ll be like this for the rest of your life. You will watch others be chosen, others be rewarded, others be praised. It will not matter how much you want to give. Better to get used to it now.

I would like to say I have gotten over my pride. My desire to be recognized, my desire to be loved. I have said those words over and over again: That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. I am not very good at them. I would like to say that I have no expectations of learning to sparkle. No expectations of coming to mind when people need someone for some task. I haven’t though. I keep searching for that thing I cannot find, some magical potion to make me like everyone else.

It is out there. Right?


Richmond, VA

The author is a sophomore in college and actually quite enjoying it.

Claire PanakComment