The other day, I was sitting in the makeup chair at work. One of the girls asked me what color lip I wanted to do. I responded, “Let’s go dark. I want to start Fall now. I’m ready for Fall.” They both started laughing and said, “You do this every season. You always want to start the next one before it gets here.”
It was Aug 4th. The middle of a very hot LA summer. Yet, here I was, already three months ahead.
I stopped dead in my tracks. And for weeks, I have been reflecting on this idea. I realized that this is my life’s mantra: Next.
As I’ve taken time to really dive into this concept and where it manifests itself in different parts of my life, so much has become clear. Let’s go back to kindergarten, when it became very obvious that I was going to move like this.
I walked into the teacher meet and greet with my mom and three year old brother, Steven, a week before school started. I was five years old, a normal age to start school, but there was something not so normal about me. The teacher looked at my mom, and then looked at Steven and said, “We are so excited to have your son in class with us!” My mom, confused, replied, “No, he’s three. My daughter is in your class.” As I stepped forward a bit, my teacher was in shock. This was the beginning of a long line of questioning and investigation into my age. I was five feet tall at five… no that is not a typo… and no one believed I could be five. They threw out foreign exchange student regularly.
On the first day of school, all kindergarteners had to wear an apple necklace they made for us so the teachers knew which little kids to take from the bus drop off area. I wore my apple. I got left behind. Five feet tall meant I didn’t belong in kindergarten. Even with my apple and the fact that my teacher knew I was in her class.
I believe this is the moment I realized that not only did I not belong, but I move quickly because this was not where I was supposed to be.
Two weeks in, my mom came into my classroom to volunteer. I was sitting in the teacher’s chair while all the kids were on the floor. I was reading to my entire class and teaching them. My mom was so confused. My teacher pulled her aside.
“Mrs. Tennant, we have a problem. We have nothing left to teach your daughter. She is already far ahead and knows all the material. So we are letting her teach the class.”
I have been the parent, the teacher, the mentor, the leader and the head of the class from that moment on. I have no idea how else to function. I was tall and very smart and therefore given a position of power and importance. I was taught to help others and share my knowledge. But I was also taught that I did not belong and that I moved faster than everyone else.
I’ve never been able to let this go.
I skipped seventh grade. I wasn’t fitting in, all of my teammates were in 8th and 9th grade because I was too good to play with kids my own age. I was “too smart and talented,” and I was in a severe depression with suicidal thoughts. My inability to fit in and be like everyone else was catching up to me in a very negative way. Two weeks into seventh grade, after coming to my parents every day crying that I didn’t want to live anymore, that I had no friends and was so unhappy, my mom and guidance counselor made the decision to move me into eighth grade the following Monday. Their hope was that being surrounded by older kids who could challenge me more would allow me to fit in. It definitely helped. But it wasn’t the answer.
I graduated high school at 17. I was over it. The drama, the bullying from girls that were jealous, and the boring day to day. It was so monotonous to me. I knew there had to be more. I was a high school all american, one of the best players in my class, and was signed to a top athletic and academic university. I had also decided at age ten that I wanted to go into broadcasting. That’s right. I chose my career in sixth grade. Who does that?
As soon as I showed up to my beloved University of Southern California, I was interning for different television networks. I was working for our school’s website, and by the time I graduated, I was already working and hosting a show for Fox Sports. I was over college. I was ready to be an adult and in the working world. I had put in my time at parties, football games, and sitting in classrooms. I was ready to master the next thing.
ESPN hired me at 21. It was my second real television job I ever got. Writing that still makes me wonder how that happened. But then again, my path has been so fast forwarded and unconventional that it makes complete sense in context.
I wrote a book. A real book that you can buy on Amazon. By myself. I had friends edit it and help with interviews and whatnot, but I wrote a damn 100 page book and self published it. My entire reason for doing it was to help other lost athletes. At 25. I always find it odd when people are surprised I’ve done this. It seems normal to me. But now I realize, that’s not what most 20 somethings are doing.
I have always fallen in love fast. I’ve moved in way too quickly. I have convinced myself every guy was the right one because of this idea of wanting to be a wife and a mom so badly. I am actually shocked I made it to 29 without being married or having kids. This may be the one area of my life that I have consciously slowed down and tried to allow things to be more organic. I credit a very bad relationship and failed engagement at 25 to force me to look myself in the mirror and question my need to move so quickly. Sometimes my need to move so fast sabotages my well-being.
Every job I get, new contract I sign, or wonderful opportunity that comes my way is never enough. I am excited for approximately 18 hours before my speedy nature of “what’s next?” kicks in and I am looking for the next thing. I look at people around me and think to myself that I must not be doing enough or that I’m behind. The problem here is, I am not comparing myself to other 29 year olds… I’m looking at people in their mid 30s to 50. I’m expecting myself to be there. Because I’ve gotten so use to being ahead of the curve, exceeding expectation and moving quickly.
I don’t know how to look at my life and say to myself, “Wow! Good job. You’ve accomplished a lot. There’s more to do, of course, but enjoy the moment.” And this is what I’m working on. My entire life has been in the fast lane. And I think I’ve missed a lot of the little, wonderful moments, because I have been so obsessed with the next best thing. I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come and for the positive impact I believe I have made on others along the way.
I’m also very proud that I don’t fit in. I’m still really tall. I still want to do really big, amazing things for others. I don’t like following a crowd or society’s expectations. I like to hug people. And my introverted self would rather be at home reading a book in the quiet rather than in a bar on a Friday night. I am the outlier almost everywhere I go. I stick out like a sore thumb, and I wear four inch heels most days at work. Being different makes me who I am. It’s something I have become very grateful for over the years. Some days I wish I could just fit in, but for the most part, I love it about myself.
So for now, it’s time to learn patience. It’s a virtue isn’t it? Apparently I don’t have to have it all right this second. I guess it’s okay to let things organically come together. And it’s nice sometimes, to just sit back and say, “I did that. And for now, I’m good.” I will admit even writing that is extremely difficult, but hey, I’m a work in progress.