Being an individual is probably the hardest thing you can be. Yes we are all ourselves, but really, how much of our true self do we allow out into the world?
My younger sister and I may look alike, but we are very different people. For example I am typically up and ready to go about 5:30AM, and she has generally just gone to bed a few hours before that. My closet is organized by style and color and color coded by hangers. My sister’s clothes are sometimes clean. Growing up, on more than one occasion when we were out together people would ask if we were twins. We usually said yes. Really, we weren’t seeing most of these people again, why not have a little fun.
This similarity in appearance, worked to her benefit and to our parent’s aggravation. When I turned 18, the two of us got our belly buttons pierced. It was quite the scandal at our house when the parental units found out. She also used my ID to get her first tattoo, and it is funny, how we both turned 21 the same year.
I like to think we were mild, as far as teenagers go; but we definitely were not behaving the way our mother believed young catholic girls should be behaving.
A few years after the belly button scandal, while I was home on Christmas break, my father asked me to go to a meeting with him and my mother the next day. I believe he told me he thought it would be something I could learn from. I said yes, since it didn’t conflict with my work schedule and at the time I was a sponge for any information I thought my help me get a job.
I didn’t think much about it after that very brief discussion, my father was involved with several community groups at the time. I didn’t expect the situation would be anything other than a class or meeting probably about budgeting or goal setting and I would be simply observing and absorbing information.
When the elevator doors opened, I was staring down a long hall with white walls and white doors. All the doors were closed and everything was plain and looked the same. There was no noise, it was stark and cold. Very institutional. I followed my parents, but I had this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, it told me I needed to get ready. We entered one of the doors; the inside resembled a doctor’s office, so slightly more pleasant than the hall, in a fake sort-of way. But this was no ordinary doctor, this was a psychologist.
My parents filled out the required paperwork and we waited our turn, I don’t really remember much about the waiting, but I will never forget when we got into the office and my parents expressed their concerns…
Over my appearance!
Specifically earrings and tattoos. At the time I wanted to laugh but knew it was important to keep my composure. My parents were very serious and I needed to handle this situation in a serious manner. I also knew that I could not get angry or upset, I needed to be rational and make clear adult arguments and win this psychologist to my side of thinking. Over the next hour or so I was able to explain to my parents and the doctor: 1) I was not crazy, 2) I was not on drugs, 3) (Probably the most important) That I was decorating my body, my way and 4) I had thought about the future implications and was keeping them in mind.
This was one of many examples in my life, where the reality was a complete left turn from where I thought I was going. I am sure you have also experienced a few of those situations in your own life.
For a long time I didn’t understand why my parents handled the situation in that manner, but my father was right, it was a learning experience for me. I learned that if you don’t let your emotions rule the situation you can have very productive conversations despite being on completely opposite sides of the argument. I learned that sometimes a change of scenery is helpful because in an unfamiliar setting people will be on-guard and more cautious, and not be so quick to fly off the handle and leave the difficult conversation unfinished. I learned moderators are a useful tool and can keep the conversation on track. And I learned it is important to trust your gut and follow your instincts because you are always one step away from the crazy bin.
Since that day my parents have not revisited the issue. I like to think it is because I handled the situation in an adult manner and allowed them to understand my perspective. My behavior gave them the security they needed to let me be an adult and respect my decisions, even though they may disagree with them. The funny thing is, my sister never got to visit this psychologist.
Life is a test, every day you get a new paper and the choice to fill it how you will. Sometimes what you did yesterday will carry over, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you won’t see repercussions from yesterday for a number of months, or years. But every day is another chance. You are the sum of your experiences. Every encounter impacts you, every struggle molds your personality and every success defines who you are. I encourage you to honor yourself by making decisions each day that are true to your core beliefs and values so when you catch your reflection in the mirror you will see someone you respect.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”– Howard Thurman