I consider myself a late bloomer. I spent the first almost 30 years of my life trying to be someone I thought I should be, desperately clambering for love and security from a place which oscillated between fear and pride (which was really just fear).
I kinda feel like the next thirty is going to be dedicated to shedding the ideas I held about myself and the world which led me to my ‘rock bottom’ just under four years ago, as well as uncovering, accepting and yes, here it comes, embracing my true self.
If I am lucky enough to get another thirty, I’ll probably adopt a ‘Fuck you, I’ll do what I want’ attitude and do exactly that.
Because I feel that the only ‘purpose’ of my life, is to be me. Such a simple concept, but one which I have arrived at by doing the exact opposite; running from myself and covering up my ‘weaknesses’, drowning out my fears and insecurities; all in an attempt to be Someone, not only Someone I thought others would like, but Someone who I could.
It’s quite sad really, when I think about how much time and energy I spent trying to become Someone else, and how little I must have thought of myself in order to go to such great lengths to change myself.
We all have defining moments. I could rattle off about a hundred, but there is one that stands out to me.
I was at school in about the third grade, after a night spent lying awake listening to my Dad’s drunken ramblings. It wasn’t the first time his alcoholic insanity had kept me from sleep; sometimes we would flee to my Grandma’s house in the middle of the night, then appear at Catholic school the next day in pressed plaid uniforms with money for the canteen.
Anyway, it was one of those days where I was trying to make sense out of my life (yes, in that way, I suppose I started young!) so I decided to talk to my best friend about it. I started gingerly, testing the waters of how much information I would convey, and decided to start on some pretty common ground; ground on which I thought we could stand on as equals.
“Do your Mum and Dad fight?” I asked casually, expecting a certain response (because of course they did) that would open up the conversation for some deeper secret-sharing.
“No, not really,” came the response from my grade three best friend. “Yours?” she asked.
“Only sometimes,” I answered casually, closing the case on that line of conversation.
And that, was that.
I never asked another friend if their parents fought, or confided in a friend, family member or teacher about my Dad’s behavior and the confusion and fear it instilled in me. I took that one conversation as a sign that I was Different, and that my Different was not Good Different, but very Very Bad Different, and I must keep it a tightly kept secret from here on out.
So I did exactly that.
I stuffed it away in the ‘Things That Make Me Not Okay’ box (because everyone has one of those, right?) and proceeded to focus my attention on the things that would. I focused on gathering good grades, accolades, friends (the right ones) and approval in every single place I could. That was my way of avoiding my confusion and fear (i.e my truth) and it seemed to work pretty well for a while.
But eventually, as one of my favorite writers of the moment, Glennon Melton puts it, ‘the jig was up.’ Because it was a jig, a dance, a performance. I was performing an idea I held of myself of someone who was confident, well-adjusted and whole, when in fact I was the exact opposite. And the thing about The Truth is, it is unwavering and constant and cannot be denied, which I found out very painfully when my ‘jig’ was well and truly up and I was left more confused, isolated and broken than I ever was to begin with.
I had completely sabotaged myself (and others) by the very simple fact of not being me. Not only did I not accept and love myself as I was, but wasn’t aware there was anything wrong with that.
Ha! Accept me? But I’m scared all the time! Nobody likes scaredy cats, least of all me! So I’ll become someone else – simple!
I didn’t even know that another way existed, a way where I could accept the discomfort of being me. I thought I was a problem that required solving, rather than a complex work of art that required appreciating for it’s uniqueness. I thought I needed fixing when all I really needed was loving. Real loving, from within, because God knows I’ve received more than my fair share of love from others (that’s you, Mum) but it wasn’t enough to fill the deep, empty well within.
Yesterday was National Coming Out Day in the states.
It’s obviously geared towards the Gay and Lesbian community who have no doubt faced their fair share of discrimination and oppression from their families, community, law makers and even themselves.
But I think we could all do with a bit of ‘coming out’ really, to emerge from that hiding place of social acceptance and remove the mask we wear for the world to protect against it’s scrutiny and judgement.
Because, in my experience, living with the mask sucks, it truly, truly sucks, even when we are telling ourselves ‘we’re okay.’
Because the world’s judgement is small fry compared to the judgement we place on ourselves when we define us as Not Good Enough.
And because we are ripping off not only ourselves but humanity as a whole by not gifting our true selves to the world; short changing every single relationship we have with a half-alive version of ourselves, while our ONLY job here (I believe) is to be truly, wholly and fully, us.
Just as we are. Just as we were designed, in all our complexity.
In all our human-ness.
In all our messy perfection, like a weird, abstract work of art which makes you feel good even though you have no idea why random paint splats and a squiggle have the power to do that.
And we can start by ‘coming out’ to ourselves, by giving ourselves the gift of a wholly-lived life, which means ALL of us; the broken bits, the shiny bits, the bits which we have NO IDEA where they come from or where they fit, but we have them so they must be a part of us.
I must warn you, however, that coming out to ourselves will be uncomfortable, it might hurt a bit (okay, it will definitely hurt) and it will not mean smooth sailing from here on out. It will not fix us or make people like us or make our life easier.
But we will rest more peacefully at night (eventually), we will wake with a renewed joy in our heart for the very fact of being alive (at least some of the time), and we will, without a shred of a doubt be contributing to the good of humankind by showing up as ourselves rather than an obscured version.
When we offer our true selves to another human being, it gives them permission to be their true selves which in my opinion, can only be a Very Good Thing.
Because the world has plenty of actors and professional jig-dancers, but what it doesn’t have enough of is… you.
Tyrhone’s blog, Tell them I Said Something, has a new design! I think it’s pretty spiffy (just like him).