Bitches I hope to be like part three: the ones​ who didn’t have to be there

Before we begin, I know that this series has been a little more emotionally driven than some of my other work. BUT we’ll be getting back to funny soon.

Just bear with me and my emotions, ok?

The following post is about three women who have changed my life, made me a better person, and who live their lives being the badest bitches I’ve ever met. Though, they may not love being called that.

I think that it may be best to just jump right in, so let’s do it.

I will be writing them in the order in which we met, so you have an understanding of where I was in life when I met them.

Sarah Finkbeiner –  September 2008

Before we even start, allow me to give you a general idea of who I was in 2008.

 

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This is me at a wedding. I’m wearing my grade 6 graduation dress and a hair tie on my wrist to double as a corsage.

 

Okay, there’s a lot to talk about here.

2008 was the year I started middle school.

I was weird. I loved graphic tees with puppies on them, I was heavily bullied, I attended church on the reg (I know… I know,) I was a big fan of ponytails and I loved drama class!

Drama class is of course where I met Sarah (whom at the time I called “Mme Sarah”) because she just happened to be my teacher.

Grade 7 was a blast. Between being shoved into lockers, ditched by boys at school dances,  and performing in very low budget school plays, I was having an ok time!

Reality hit a little harder in grade 8 though, which is where this story really happens.

When grade 8 began, I was ready for the world.

Most of my bullies had moved on to high school,  later to become very successful teenage moms. I dyed my hair dark brown to give myself a tougher look, and I started wearing eyeliner. Like a lot of eyeliner.

I was feeling good.

But in November of that year, something really bad happened.

A good friend of mine, whom I had known since kindergarten, had been murdered by his father.

For me, this was the first really significant death in my life.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone I had known for most of my life was gone, and the person behind it all was someone who used to volunteer for school field trips. It didn’t seem real.

This sent me on a whirlwind of emotions and changes that couldn’t be stopped.

I dyed my hair black (with some bright red, because it was 2009 at this point,) I started cutting class, I stopped doing my school work, I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Basically, I did what most people do in the 11th grade, except I did it when I was 13.

Sarah is significant to this story because she didn’t have to be there, but she was.

A week or so after my friend had died, Sarah decided to make me cupcakes.

It seems small, I know.

But for the heartbroken, depressed, lonely 13-year-old it was a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark tunnel.

On top of this, even though I skipped her class, and was probably rude to her (because I was rude to everyone), and I probably didn’t do any of my work, she never got angry with me.

Instead, she was the only person in this totally fucked up situation that told me that it was okay to be sad.

She told me that I got to be as angry and as upset as I wanted to be and that no one was allowed to tell me otherwise.

Again, it may seem small, but at the time this was the best thing anyone could have said to me.

From that point on, I really looked up to her.

I started attending her class again and was able to find a little bit of happiness in a place that made me so miserable.

And I ended up doing well.

In her class, not in math class though. Almost failed that.

The rest of my middle school career was filled with school plays, choreographed dances, and singing.

As well as a dramatic flair for things that didn’t matter, 2-week relationships, and the occasional cigarette.

*SCANDAL*

Sorry, mom.

Once I was about to leave middle school and was starting to get myself back on track, Sarah was very close to having her first baby (like really close, like was ready to pop any day kind of close.)

I remember thinking what a lucky baby that was, because she was gonna have a mom who understood how much everything sucks, who loved theatre and art, and who made really amazing cupcakes.

Now that I’m older, wiser, and don’t smoke as many cigarettes, I’ve really been able to appreciate what Sarah did for me, and for what she continues to do for me.

A couple of years ago, I received a message from her out of the blue. Essentially the message was for a number of her former students, to say that she was proud of us and was so impressed with how far we had all come.

The message ended with the same love and charm that all things did with Sarah. She thanked all of us for being there for her, and for changing and inspiring her.

The message brought forward a number of feelings that I don’t think I was ready to feel.

I helped her? I changed her?

This I think ended up being the most significant thing that she taught me.

She taught me that even when you feel like you’re at your worst, and when you feel like nothing is good and nothing will get better, you still have the ability to make a change.

That in everything that you do, you influence other people, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways.

I think this was significant because it came in a time in my life where I was feeling just as lost as I was when I was 13.

Without even knowing it, she reminded that things get better and easier.

And even when all seems dark, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you, Sarah.

Danielle Swichenuik – February 2010

 

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My curtains may have been rainbow, but my soul matched my hair. Thank god I grew into that nose.

Now that you have an insight into what kind of human I was in the 8th grade, I think it’s important to talk about the other lady that touched my life in this dark time.

About 6 months after my friend had died, my parents and the school thought that it would be a good idea for me to have a role model.

I chose not to fight this, mostly because I thought it was really exciting that I would get to do things like go to movies, go to concerts, and not have to hang out with people I hated, for free.

Honestly, I was kind of stoked about it.

My mom and I went through a rather painless (at least from what I remember) process with the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Calgary, and before I knew I had myself a new big sister named Danielle.

About 5 minutes before I was set to meet Danielle, the lady that facilitated our match and my mom sat me down to tell me that they thought she would be a good match for me, because like me she had “gone through things” and “wasn’t the skinniest person in her class growing up.”

Cue the eye roll.

I guess in some way they thought that pointing out my issues would make me want to do this more.

So after this little pep talk, I was ready to shut this bitch down.

I was ready to give her and the other ladies in the room the good ole what for, and be on my way into the never-ending cycle of disdain and unhappiness that would be my life.

And then I saw her.

She was a weird mix of confidence and nervousness that I just couldn’t figure out.

But at the end of the meeting, there were two things that sealed the deal on our fake siblingship.

The first was when I asked her to rate herself from 1-10* and she answered 11.

*What kind of bitch asks someone that kind of question, Kristen?

And the second was when the facilitator and my mom stepped out of the room for us to “bond” and she suggested we blow the joint, head over to the kitchen, and eat some food.

I knew at this point that this would be the love story of the ages.

From that point on, we had weekly get-togethers where we found ourselves doing some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever done.

On top of that, we saw a lot of movies and went to a lot of concerts.

I can’t say that my time with her was overly boring or terrible.

Even though we spent at least one day a week together, I found that I didn’t really open up to Danielle much until I was about 15.

It wasn’t because I felt that I shouldn’t, or for any particular reason actually. I think up until that point I’d felt that I didn’t have too much to talk about.

But then boys happened.

Boys had happened before I was 15, but none that were significant. Apologies to my 6th-grade boyfriend, Roland.

Danielle was my main source of gossip and advice when it came to all things high school.

And in return, I was the main source for all things gossip that came from being a real adult with real responsibilities. It worked.

In that time, Danielle had taught me what friendship truly meant, because up until that point, I think my version of what friendship looked like was very damaging.

She taught me that friends should want to be there, and not be made to feel that they had to be there. She proved this by still hanging out with me every week, even though it was no longer required of her.

Above all, she showed me that perfection is boring.

Danielle refused to be anyone but herself.

She did, and still does, take her flaws, acknowledge them, and changes them to make herself a better person.

She doesn’t care what people think, what people say, or what people feel because at the end of the day all that matters is that she’s a corky, silly, hilarious, hell-of-a-time gal.

She don’t need no man, and she don’t need your shit.

I think, or at least I hope, that I take after her.

I can’t think of too many people I’d rather be like.

Love you, girl.

Katie Culhane – January 2012

 

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Here I am. Older, wiser, clearly better looking, and in HIGH SCHOOL.

My relationship with Katie had a very different beginning than my relationship with Sarah or Danielle.

Unlike the other two, for the first year that Katie was in my life, I hated her.

And I mean really hated her.

She was both my English and Social Studies teacher in grades 10, 11, and 12, and she, up to this point, was the hardest teacher I had ever had.

That’s not why I hated her though.

The workload didn’t bother me too much because, in all honesty, I didn’t actually do half of it.

I hated her because she challenged me.

She saw what I was capable of, and pushed me harder than I wanted to be pushed so that I could reach my highest potential, and I never really experienced this before.

In middle school, most of my teachers had given up on me simply because they knew I wasn’t going to do anything I didn’t want to.

My family never really pushed me too hard before high school, and if they had, they clearly didn’t push hard enough for me to notice or become frustrated with.

But Katie, she pushed.

She pushed any button she could find. She challenged me to think in new ways, she forced me to think of things that I never wanted to think about, and above all, she constantly told me when I wasn’t producing work that was good enough.

Even if it was good enough for a decent grade, she would remind me that I could have done better, and therefore, wasn’t acceptable.

It was infuriating.

So I fought back.

Katie once described the way I treated her as “the way in which everyone treated me.”

I put her down, I was nice to her face and terrible behind her back, and in all honesty, I was just plain fucking mean.

She wasn’t wrong though, a lot of my friendships (aside from a few diamonds in the rough) were extremely toxic and consisted of a lot of mental manipulation.

Even my relationship with my boyfriend at this time reflected a lot of these things. I sometimes gag at the thought of it.

She knew I was sad, and wouldn’t allow my sadness to be something that stopped me from accomplishing things. To her, it seemed, my sadness wasn’t an excuse.

And she was right.

Eventually, she pushed me to realize that it wasn’t everyone else that was holding me back, but it was me letting them.

That’s right, I wasn’t always this confident, brave, pretty, and amazing.

For most of life, I was hiding behind pain.

But Katie, wouldn’t take no for an answer. She saw more.

She saw the girl that wanted to so badly break out of her own life, and accomplish things that no one thought she would be capable of.

And she helped me see it too.

Mid-way through the 11th grade. my attitude toward Katie shifted.

I started to see her as less of a pain in the ass, and more as a role model.

So much of what she was (and is) was exactly what I wanted to be.

She was smart, she was clever, she never took any shit from anyone, and she accomplished so many things that I thought I was never good enough to accomplish.

She’s honestly one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever known, and I feel so lucky to know her.

At this point, reality had finally set in that I wouldn’t make it anywhere if I continued to produce the level of work that I was producing.

I started spending more time on homework, coming in before and after school to do assignments and finish art projects, and I started to give a shit about my own future.

All the while, Katie watched with a look that I can only describe as being “I told you so, bitch.”

So here I am, in what feels like decades later, and she’s still touching my life.

Every time I finish an assignment that I put minimal effort into, I hear Katie’s voice saying, “Kristen, you know for a fact that this isn’t gonna cut it.”

And I respond, “Mrs. Culhane, I’m gonna get an 80, and that’s gonna be good enough to graduate. So why are you being a fucking bitch.”

To which fictional Katies says, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that we were settling for a B+ life.”

And do you know what I do, I huff and puff, and get that mother fucking A like a boss.

Katie taught me that accepting anything less than my best is a failure.

Sure, it sounds cold and it may be too real for some of you, but it’s the exact thing that I need to be able to get my shit done.

I know that with this push, I’m able to get to the place that the sad 15-year-old me thought was out of my reach.

Of all the women on this list, Katie is behind so much of the inner “bitch” that I am today.

And if in ten years, I’m half the bitch that she’s managed to be, then holy shit am I doing something right.

Thank you for never giving up on me, and never letting me do it either.

Your lessons will stay with me forever.

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