Last Place Girl

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Have you ever had the experience of being picked last or being someone's last choice? I asked this question on Instagram, and 93% of you said yes. When asked to share those experiences, here are some of the things you shared with me:
  • "I was last picked at an EFY dance 😂"
  • "As a kid I was often chosen last for sports at recess. I felt embarrassed about it."
  • "I felt lonely and devalued when for my eighth birthday I invited my whole class to my first and only birthday party. Only my best friend showed up."
  • "I was "hanging out" with this guy (his words, we were never a couple) who broke my heart into pieces and lead me to feel worthless and undeserving of better, but who was also so broken I reasoned everything away and tried desperately to help him feel whole. I decided this charmer was the one who deserved my virginity I had been saving, but when I felt uncomfortable or didn't want to because it was empty and life-draining, he would remind me that plenty of other girls would be happy to be in my shoes and he'd be happy to call them over. He told me once I wasn't even his second choice, or even further down the line, to call over."
  • "Before my husband and I started dating we were best friends who had just opened up about being interested in each other. He ended up choosing another girl over me and telling me he wasn't ready for a relationship, but I saw a few days later on Facebook that they were in a relationship together. I loved him so I stayed close friends with him throughout their relationship. Eventually he realized he made the wrong decision and they broke up after 2 long years. I watched them kiss each other and live together all while knowing it should have been me. After he left her we got together but it still hurts me that he chose her before me. We've been together for 4 years now, have a daughter and another baby on the way, but it still hurts to think about it. No one wants to be a second choice."

When I asked myself the same question, I had two answers.

I've never been picked dead last at a dance, for a team at school, never placed last on individual or team sports, never had the lowest grade in the class, never was the only one not invited to a party.

BUT, in the same breath,

yes. I have been in "last place" many times.

"Last Place" - and so aptly named by those that shared their stories as "Second Choice" - experiences can be painful because they produce a unique kind of shame. The shame of not being "worthy" or "good enough" creates a deep gouge in a person's self-worth. I've had my share of those.

I was hospitalized near the end of my senior year of high school with a painful throat abscess. Not one person came to visit me in the hospital, even when opportunity presented itself. Not a single soul came to visit, sent a text, anything. I'm not talking about friends bringing balloons or nice ladies from church coming by. I'm saying literally no one. At 18 years old I spent 48 hours in a hospital room alone, save the nurses who came to check on me and prep me for surgery. At one point I was certain I would die, not only from my physical condition but from the deep wound of being not just forgotten, but ignored. I remember being disappointed to wake up from the anesthesia post-surgery.

Last Place. It does things to you.

I found myself there a lot. It wasn't hard to feel like I wasn't high on anyone's list when I very often had no pencils for school and when the quantity of memories of going to bed without dinner far exceeds those of gathering around the table for a hot meal. Last Place was a real thing for me. I know what its like to be second pick, third pick, one hundredth pick, never picked. Last Place Girl. That's me.

Are you a Last Place Girl too?

Chosen last in an intimate relationship?
Overlooked for promotion after promotion at work?
Feel unwelcome at church?
Forgotten by friends?

Last Place looks different for everyone. Unfortunately, when we have heavy Last Place experiences Last Place becomes comfortable. It often becomes our frequent, unconsciously preferred choice. Women in particular find themselves making camp, sometimes even building brick houses in Last Place because women are taught from a young age to swallow disappointment, their own needs, and a million tiny oppressions in the name of making everyone else comfortable. Women are taught to say "yes" to everyone, to serve until their hearts give out, and have the smallest portions at dinner when there is not enough. Millions of women know Last Place as home.

So if you find yourself in Last Place, you are not alone. But whether what makes up Last Place for you is only a tinge of embarrassment or a truckload of shame, its important to know:

Last Place Girl has things
and she needs things.

Last Place Girl has shame. She feels sad and angry. She may feel forgotten, ignored, that the world is blind to her tears and cries for help and attention. She may feel she doesn't fit in and never will, or that she isn't good enough. She might feel she doesn't deserve better. Maybe she thinks she doesn't deserve anything at all. She might think, "What is wrong with me?" and "If only I was thinner, smarter, prettier, funnier, then they will see me. Then they will love me."

Last Place Girl needs to be seen, loved, and welcomed in. She needs to hear the words, "You are loved for who you are. You are important to me. You have a place, right here next to me." She needs people who are genuine in their concern and love for her. She needs safe people with whom she can be vulnerable.

Last Place Girl, find your people. Love from others is essential. It is a basic need to be loved and accepted in a community. Without a place to call home in the human family, we feel alone and exposed. My experience is this: people will show up. The people who show up consistently are your people. The secret to healing is to let them in. Let them love you. Let them show you what it means to be cared for, to be seen, to be watched over.

Last Place Girl needs medicine. That looks like a lot of things: intuitive eating, a special blanket, therapy, a girls night, a healing solo trip, a garden, a new hobby, journaling, meditation, etc. In reality, what I am calling "medicine" is really self-love. I'm not talking about the #treatyoself or the #selfcaresunday kind of self-love where you go out to buy yourself a new pair of Lululemon pants and some fine leather goods. I'm talking about the gritty, intentional, hard-working kind of love. It is the kind of self-love that is quiet. It has no hashtag. It doesn't make for a good Instagram pic. Its not easy. It requires you to sit with the discomfort of being human. This medicine is its own reward.

I've heard people argue for years over which comes first in healing: self love or love from others. Chicken or the egg? The answer I've arrived at is this: both are necessary. They are two sides of the same coin. They need each other. Self-love must come. Without it, there will be an endless, gnawing wound where the heart is meant to be. People who consistently show up for you reinforce your innate sense of worthiness. Self love transforms the love others give into enough. It is foolish to follow the path of insisting self-love is all you need. Wellsprings run dry when they are not fed. Someone who has strong self love spends time with people who are loving. This is because they have internalized the message: I am worth loving.

This week I walked out of a particularly difficult counseling session feeling the heaviness of Last Place on my chest. I hopped in my car and let the feelings that were bubbling inside just wash over me. I began to cry. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw my red eyes, felt the tiredness of my body, saw my unkempt hair and baggy sweater. I felt such shame. In a moment of extreme anger, I shouted at God. I wanted him to know I was pissed that he had forgotten about me in a hundred unforgivable ways.

"I am broken because of you!" I screamed at him through the roof of my minivan.
"You left me.
I was alone and you left me that way.
I hate you for sending me to a family
who hated me,
who treated me like an animal,
who forgot I was a little girl who needed things.
You never saved me,
never stepped in to help
or to stop the things you say you hate.
You are a liar.
All your fancy promises are lies.
What good is being a child of god
when you are forgotten like that?
I will never believe you.
I will never forgive you."

I cried until snot came forcefully out of my nose, because what else can you do when you feel Last Place to God?

And yet, there is a small girl inside me who wants more than anything to be held, to be loved, to have her hair brushed gently and sit down to a plate of hot homemade mac and cheese. She desperately wants to believe she is beloved, especially to God. As much as I want to keep that weeping girl quiet and tell her she doesn't need those things, I remember that my work right now is to listen to her and try to give her everything she asks for. So I took a deep breath and sat quietly in a wordless surrender.

Down the river of endless thoughts floated a faint reminder.
The first shall be the last
and the last shall be the first.
I rolled my eyes.

"Shut up, God. I don't care what you say.
Don't quote scriptures to me.
I'm tired of waiting for some future peace forever away
when you are forgetting me right now."

Obviously God and I are on good terms right now.

As I continued wading through my river of sadness,
another message flowed into consciousness.
Why wait?
Why not now?

Why not First Place now?

I was still deeply angry, so I said,
"Whatever, dude."
like the mature 28 year old woman I am.
I drove home,
holding my scathing anger as sword and shield,
and tried to forget my pathetic, desperate reaching
for a thread of love to hold on to.

But the question has been poking into my mind
like a rock in my shoe.

Why not First Place now?

I'll admit the idea sounds nice.
First Place.
I wonder what that even looks like?

What does First Place look like?
Last Place Girl wants to know.

So I pose the question to you:

What does First Place look like
for you?

and, more importantly,

why not First Place now?
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.