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Oct 08 2017
by Madi Telschow

How I Moved Across the World and Found Myself

By Madi Telschow - Oct 08 2017
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One would not normally count a screaming child as blessed. One might consider them unhappy, or tired, but certainly not gifted. An individual might spot a crying infant and rush to appease their easily-irritable disposition, but the first word on his or her mind would certainly not be one of positivity.

Yet, when I came screaming and crying into the world, blessed was the only word that could be used to describe me. Despite my perhaps-not-so-joyful temperament at the time, I had been privileged with the gift of two wonderful and loving parents who would go on to give me an equally wonderful brother.

Together, they provided a stable home: cementing early memories in my mind with images of see-saws, comforting hugs and tender kisses, all the while creating a wholesome Christian environment within the bustling city of Houston, Texas. With church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, it would seem that I was living the suburban dream. I never expected anything to change.

Until it did.

The summer after fifth grade, my family decided that we would be moving to Australia. My dad had a job offer there and it seemed too good to refuse. I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea, but it could be pretty easily argued that I didn’t exactly know what I was in for either.

Soon enough I arrived at my new home, only to realize that the environment was wildly different than what I had expected. All around me were harsh accents, strange words and unavoidable questions.

For many, I was their one example of what an American was truly like. Hence, I was subjected to unattainable and often unwanted expectations. My classmates knew only what they watched on television, so the majority presumed that I would fall into one of two categories: popular or nerd. Others categorized by weight and some categorized by beauty, but the final result remained the same: I became a perfectionistic people-pleaser. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and I definitely didn’t want to poorly represent my country.

With what I felt was a vast array of individuals watching and judging my every move, I became determined to become the ultimate over-achiever. I joined as many clubs as possible, took up vocal lessons, starred in musicals and maintained high grades. Similarly, I watched my weight, began wearing makeup and took my place in the world of the fashion-obsessed.

Although I was certainly not successful on every count, I soon found that my identity rested more and more in how people perceived me. While this solidified my driven, outgoing personality, it also caused my self-worth to rest solely in the opinions of those around me.

After four seemingly-brief years in Australia, my parents decided that it was time for our family to reclaim our place in American society. I would be heading into my sophomore year of high school, and college was an influential issue on the not-so-distant horizon. Once again, I found myself saying goodbye to the home that I had grown accustomed to, expecting that my new one would not be quite as overwhelming. I mean, I’d lived in Texas before, right? Unfortunately, my assumptions were far from accurate.

Back in Houston, life had moved on without me and I found myself forced to re-acclimate to a culture that I still thought of as my own. Nervous to live up to the expectations that came with being the “girl from Australia,” I tried my hand at the perfection game once more. I jumped into my new high school by joining numerous clubs and other extra-curricular activities, hoping that I would be deemed worthy enough to have friends. I’ve always cared for people so instantaneously, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough to find the feeling reciprocated back in Texas. And if it wasn’t reciprocated – really – what was I worth?

It took the brink of mental insanity to smack some sense into me. Refusing to slow down, even at the peak of my junior year, I began to experience debilitating panic attacks and an accumulation of lingering anxiety. I couldn’t help but fail every now and then; I couldn’t help my imperfection. But every time that I would mess up, I felt as though I risked losing myself. If people didn’t think I was perfectly smart or perfectly athletic or perfectly artsy, what was I?

Finally, I realized that it would be impossible to continue on my current path without further physical and mental consequences. Reluctantly, I started to let my perfectionism go.

Slowly but surely, I began to understand that finding my identity and self-worth in what people thought of me bore so little security. It was unhealthy to always be on guard the way that I was, feeling that those around me ran a constant dialogue of criticism. I wasn’t being myself; I was being what I thought people wanted me to be, and it was killing me little by little. Not only that, I had become incapable of truly healthy relationships. After all, it’s impossible to maintain a good friendship when you are dependent on the other person 24/7. I needed to find myself outside of my reputation and outside of my peers.

It was only in returning to a full acknowledgement of my Christian faith from childhood suburbia that I began to develop a healthy dose of self-worth. In the promise of my God, I found that I had an identity far greater than any flawed, finite being could ever give me. He calls me treasured, beloved and worthy. Not because of anything that I have done, but because He in His unbelievable love decided that I was worth the sacrifice of His Son (2 Timothy 1:9). None of my activities, achievements or abilities were wrong in any way, but I then recognized that they bear no relevancy to who I am: a child of the King.

At the end of the day, I know I still have a long way to go. My journey, God-willing, is far from over and I am constantly changing. Still, I am hopeful in the joyful eternity that I call my own. I am curious to learn more and passionately live my life to the fullest. My adventures and experiences may come with hardships, but they will not come without their beneficial lessons. I am not the screaming child I once was, but I am blessed.

Lead Image Credit: Madi Telschow

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Madi Telschow - Texas A&M University

Madi is a freshman at Texas A&M University studying English and journalism in hopes of becoming a travel writer. She enjoys working with children and at a local boutique, but also loves to be outside - whatever that may entail. You might find her biking along the bayou or writing songs in her hammock, but she is always keen for a new adventure. She is passionate about God and family and friends, but she really just loves getting to know people. You can follow her on either Twitter or Instagram using the handle @maditelschow

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