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1 month ago · · Stress,
I was born a build-a-bear. A detailed blueprint of who I will be, how I will behave, what I will study and much more existed well before I was born. These blueprints were to be followed as closely as possible. Every wrong stitch would result in The Creators tearing me down to bare cotton and stuffing to be rebuilt.
My early days involved learning a lot of manners, memorizing my multiplication tables while crying in the bathroom, and being forced to hug and kiss my relatives regardless of whether I felt comfortable or not. I was constantly compared to people around me. I was told how much better they were and how I was behind or lacking in some way or form.
“We just want the best for you.”
I was born a build-a-bear, for my creators to shape and mold me into whatever they pleased. I was born a build-a-bear, with a detailed blueprint of who I will be, how I will behave, what I will study, and much more.
As I grew older, I began having my own ideas of what kind of bear I wanted to be. Of course, this imaginary bear changed several times and is still changing, but it was My Bear. I wanted to build it with My Blueprint, even though I wasn’t sure what My Blueprint was. The first bear was a firefighter. She was really small, but she ran fearlessly into burning buildings to save people. Other bears included chefs, musicians, veterinarians, and doctors.
One bear was a professional badminton player, who defied all coaches’ comments about her height and lack of power. Her agility and quick thinking covered her weaknesses.
“Why don’t you play golf? It will actually get you somewhere if you play professionally in Canada. Coaches said you have a lot of potential. You will get scholarships and it will pay well if you place in tournaments. We just want the best for you.”
I didn’t like golf. The Creators did everything they could to keep me interested in golf, from complimenting me (this is a rare occurrence and should not be thought of lightly) to yelling at me. I never ended up liking it, but The Creators couldn’t care less. They began to tear me apart. I was born a build-a-bear with a detailed blueprint to be followed. Or so I thought.
For the first time, I fought back. I didn’t want to be torn down. I was just beginning to build her, so I fought until I couldn’t fight anymore and The Creators reluctantly gave in, with one condition: I would maintain good grades. For the first time, I defied the blueprint and The Creators, and won.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” The Creators asked.
“Just don’t go into arts. We just want the best for you. ” The Creators said.
They said I wasn’t good at anything art-related anyways. The Creators ridiculed and shamed a career in arts until I no longer liked English classes. I no longer liked my French classes either, and I began hating social studies with all my might.
In high school, I gave up on the badminton player bear to play ultimate frisbee, which infuriated The Creators, but I was finally exploring what My Blueprint could be. However, in the end, I gave up on frisbee too, to follow the blueprint and focus on school. I learned that I wasn’t very good at math. It just never clicked for me, so I was sent to tutoring. I was to follow the blueprint, and the blueprint said I would be good at math. Eventually, I was sent to tutoring for physics too. I was born a build-a-bear, with a detailed blueprint to be followed. But, sometime in grade 11, I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder.
This, to The Creators, was a wrong stitch they could not fix. The blueprint could not be adjusted to make me depression/anxiety-free. They could tear me down and rebuild me all they wanted, but it wasn’t an issue with my patches outside. It was an issue with my cotton and stuffing. They tore me down anyways. The Creators blamed my extra-curricular activities, they blamed how often I saw friends, they blamed me for “putting too much on my plate” and focusing on more than just school. They questioned how could I have depression and anxiety. They compared themselves to other parents and told me how nice they are. They told me how supportive they are, as I’ve always been financially supported. They told me stress is a concept created in my head and mental illnesses were excuses for not being successful.
In my grade 12 year, I realized after years of being asked what I wanted to be, the correct answer was “an engineer.” I imagined so many bears in grades 11 to 12. Physiotherapist, veterinarian, paramedic, nurse… but engineering was absolutely nowhere near any bears I imagined. My elementary days involved being told “just don’t go into arts,” but as university applications approached, The Creators began tearing down all the bears and blueprints I had imagined until my only option left was engineering.
I was told if I went into engineering, it wouldn’t matter what kind of engineering I did because my job prospects would be amazing regardless. I fought for nursing. I fought for months. I didn’t want to study engineering. I’ve never been interested in anything relative to engineering. I was guilted and shamed. The Creators questioned whether I was smart enough for nursing. They said because I did well in math, I would be great for engineering. I only did well in math because I was sent to tutoring until I became good at math. That stuff never clicked in my head. Basically, if they didn’t want me to do something, I wasn’t good enough for it. If they wanted me to do something, they would encourage me (a very weird concept to me) and tell me how great I would be. Every bear I had ever imagined was unacceptable to The Creators. What I wanted to do didn’t matter. My happiness did not matter. What mattered was that I follow the blueprint because to The Creators, that blueprint was the only way to be successful in life. I am only a career. My sole purpose in life was to be successful.
“Nursing is a depressing job and you have depression. You wouldn’t be able to handle it. If you don’t go into engineering, we won’t support you. We just want the best for you.”
That’s all it took for any bear I ever imagined to come crumbling down to nothing. How could I, someone with depression, have the mental stability to be a nurse, and to be so strong for my patients? The Creators were right. All the bears I ever imagined were ridiculed, shamed, and looked down on until not only did I no longer like them, I was afraid to defy the blueprint to build them. I didn’t have the courage to completely cut them off and move out all on my own. After all, they supported me financially all my childhood. How would I be prepared?
Fast forward a few months, I received several university offers for engineering. After being questioned and compared all my childhood, I was thrilled to hear I wasn’t incompetent, but deep down, I feared going to university. I did not want to study engineering. I chose a school nearby, where many of my close friends would be going. A beautiful campus in a busy city, right by the water. However, The Creators did not approve. Once again, I would have to fight to defy the blueprint. Another university offered me a scholarship to join their environmental engineering program along with co-op, and The Creators were appalled that I did not want to go there. The offer I wanted to take had a different first-year plan. Your first year is general and you specialize in second year, meaning you have to compete in first year for placement in your preferred program.
“What makes you think you’re smart enough to get into a second-year program you want? What makes you think you’ll know what you want to do in your second year? What makes you think you’ll get co-op? Are you picking a university because your friends are going there? Because the campus is nicer? Because it’s in a city? You are a student. You are not going there to play around like you did all of high school.”
And so I fought. I cried for months. Talking to my friends, it hurt me, even more, to know they’re all pursuing a lovely career they want to do. Their parents were supportive, even if it wasn’t a career in STEM. I was always on edge as a kid, waiting to be yelled at or compared to, but this was a new level of tension. I complained that I was already being forced into a field of study that I didn’t want to do. Why couldn’t I at least pick a school where many of my friends were going, so I could keep the support system that I so desperately needed? I already lost sight of who I wanted to be. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
“You have a life to live after us. We will not be here to support you for the rest of your life. We just want the best for you.”
I don’t know how, but I defied the blueprint and went to the university I wanted. A piece of My Blueprint finally visualized, even though it was influenced by The Creators. I moved to campus and discovered a beautiful world outside of the blueprint. However, I suffered terribly in school. I was unmotivated and uninterested. I beyond burned out, but I made it through first year.
When I moved home for the summer, I found out that what I wanted to specialize in DID matter to The Creators. We fought over my second-year placements, but due to my lack of good grades, there was no chance I would get into computer engineering. I settled for chemical and biological engineering and moved back to campus in my second year, as I could not study at home, constantly being pestered and compared by The Creators. Not only did I gain so much freedom and personal space to learn about myself and grow, but I also found a new passion: skincare. It seems possible with this degree, even though my school offers barely any (if any) guidance and opportunities when it comes to cosmetics. When there’s a will there’s a way, right? I’ve been suffering the consequences of the blueprint for so long. There’s no way I wouldn’t be able to suffer my own consequences. This became My current Blueprint. I was build-a-build a bear, but with a blueprint for ME to build.
Sometime in my second year, I began seeking help and found out I was manipulated and gaslighted all my childhood. I process my childhood as trauma and I don’t trust myself with any decisions regarding school or my career because my wants and needs were ignored or ridiculed. I can’t study at home because my brain sees home as somewhere uncomfortable and unsafe. It was shocking and I could not accept it, because I knew The Creators just wanted the best for me. For the first time, I differed from “wanting the best” and “knowing what’s best.” Finally, I was being heard. All the anxiety and stress that was ever disregarded was finally being addressed. I knew I was on the right path.
This sense of self and confidence lasted until I moved home for the summer. I didn’t get a placement for co-op. I failed a course during my second year. The Creators will not stop comparing me to others. My sister. My friends. My boyfriend. Anyone they could think of. To me, it felt that this comparison and lack of satisfaction would never end unless I was a different person. As I write this, I am on edge, fearing more comparison and lecturing. I wish they realized that well before they compared me to anyone, I was already comparing myself. But they just “want the best” for me I guess.
“Look at everyone around you with co-op. Why didn’t you go into something computer-related? They have more opportunities and you know it. How come they can live at home and still do better than you at school?”
Living in dorm made me forget that all I was to The Creators, is a career, and my sole purpose in life was to be successful. That’s what the blueprint said. I felt like if I ever got into a car accident, their first concern would be
“How is she going to get a job?”
Today, this bear still exists. She’s been torn down and rebuilt so many times that she almost doesn’t have enough cotton and stuffing left to stand. She’s patched with hundreds of different fabrics from hundreds of different blueprints. Thousands of different-coloured sewing threads show through her skin, from the number of times she had been ripped apart and reformed to be a certain way. I no longer have an image of a bear I want to build. Any image I have is either a clone or relative of some kind of blueprint from The Creators, because that’s how I was built. Any thought to defy the original blueprint brings anxiety and guilt, and I tear down the idea before any actions are put into place because that’s how I was built. I realized, no matter how I followed the blueprint, the blueprint would always be changing. I would never be enough for it, regardless of how much joy and happiness I gave up.
I surrounded myself with all sorts of different build-a-bears. Some already have their blueprints and some have no clue what they want in their blueprint, but they all love me for the bear I am and support the bear I want to build. They hold me up when I don’t have enough cotton and stuffing to stand. The Creators are right. I do have a life to live after them. So why should I follow their blueprint? I need to make myself happy too. With each rising day, I’m working hard on My Blueprint and one day, I’ll undo all the past patches and stitches from blueprints and build My Bear.