There is something to be said for having such a handle on who you are that you can take a glance in the mirror and say “There I am. I am _____.” Personally I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never fit neatly into a little box. Life is messy, and so am I. I’ve tried to stuff my vast and varied parts into an easily labeled box… I tried for many, many years to stuff myself into one. But there were always parts hanging out, keeping the lid only half covering the contents. I’ve come to be grateful for it though, as I’ve come to accept myself. That unclosing lid is what kept me breathing. I think I’d likely have smothered if I’d managed to get it on tightly.
There is this drive, this need in our society, to define ourselves. Like I said, I suffered from it myself for many years. Now though? I really don’t get it.
The minute we can slap a label on that box (whether the box represents others or ourselves) we can put it up on a shelf and forget about it. When a box has a label on it, we don’t need to dig any deeper. We don’t need to slowly discover it’s contents. We rob ourselves of that joy. Discovery, let’s be honest, really is a joy. And self discovery? It’s even more so.
Accept yourself as you are, and if you need a label, there are many out there. Take which one fits when you need it, and discard it when it no longer does. Allow yourself the discovery, and allow those around you the same. You are worth the time it takes to really get to know you. You are worth the joy of a slow reveal, the slow clap, the slow motion entrance. Grab that 80’s teen flick moment and just run with it! Be pretty in pink!
LMAO Okay, yes, super eye-roll-causing segway… but I HAD to get in this photo of the kid and I – all dressed in our matching duds – as we headed out for the walk to school. 🙂 And while it was a seriously dorky way to lead into the photo that doesn’t take away from the truth of it.
The minute you accept yourself as you are, and stop searching for a way to squish yourself into a nice neat box you’ll find your world will open up in ways you didn’t expect. You really are worth the joy that comes from slowly discovering all the glorious mysteries that make up that amazing package – don’t deny yourself that pleasure. Don’t slap on the first definition that seems like it just might fit okay. There is no rush. You have your entire lifetime to discover yourself, and those who are worthwhile in your life? They’ll happily take that time too.
When discussing something, relaying a story, or describing an event the logical place to start is at the beginning. So, with the fifteenth anniversary of Breaking the Silence that would seem to be with Ivan Coyote’s performance on Friday evening. I’ve got a couple clips that I know you’ll love.
…However, that’s not where I’m going to start. I’m going to start at the end. Or, well… almost the end. The last session of the day, before we all gathered for the conference’s conclusion:
“Sex, Gender, and How the Heck I Fit into it All.”
I had printed 25 of the handouts I’d created, expecting 15 – 20 youth. We had 176 (it was 176 or 172, I can’t quite remember) registrants, and five options in each session slot. And with a title like mine, I didn’t expect a huge turnout. Not when competing against some of the amazing options that were presented this year. I figured by printing 25, it would give me a little wiggle room, and also allow me to share a few copies with people who were in other sessions, but were still interested in the topics I addressed.
Walking up the stairs to find the room I was presenting in I passed two people who had veered off into the other upstairs lecture hall – I’d attended a session earlier in the day there (a great one by Jim Drake on personal narrative). I kept walking… And that was when I realized, the throng of folks walking up the stairs with me were headed into room 103… into my session.
The room was already packed when I walked in, and more people kept coming. I was shocked! And I’ll admit it, I was suddenly nervous. My throat swelled, my legs felt weak, my stomach did a little turn. These are not feelings I was used to, however they weren’t entirely foreign either. I remember them well from the days I first entered politics when I feared I wouldn’t be good enough, days long past now.
George Georget, a fellow member of the board gave my introduction. He’d asked if there was anything in particular I wanted him to mention. There wasn’t really, and I told him as much… but I didn’t want to leave him lacking for something to say, so told him he could always just tell them I was a Mom and photographer. I didn’t need to be worried. He had plenty to say, all of it lovely. I thank him for that. 🙂
I began by apologizing for my lack of handouts, and asked that they share in groups of two and three… just so everyone could see what I was referring to. I began handing them out. Then realized it would be a lot more efficient to enlist a little help. I handed some to Chance Briere, an absolutely wonderful young man I met this Summer and am proud to call friend, and some to a woman across the row from him and asked for their assistance.
Still feeling a little shaky, and surprised not only by the amount of attendees by also by their diversity (I was expecting youth only, but there was a brilliant array of ages, it was inspiring to see them all gathered for a session I thought would have such narrow appeal), I began to speak.
It took two or three minutes, but I found my voice… the same as it always was. Honest, open, and willing to talk about anything.
I didn’t expect the laughs, loud and openly shared. I didn’t expect the cheers, unbridled and on point. I didn’t expect the types of questions, asked with heart and intention. I didn’t expect to inspire or to move people… but that seems to be what I did.
Very honestly? I was presenting a mainly informational session. I knew I wanted it to be more of a discussion than a lecture – but I came prepared with an activity, just in case questions were slow to come. I didn’t realize that I would touch lives, or give people hope they didn’t arrive with.
To everyone who came up to me afterwards, to shake my hand, to get a hug (or two or three), to share a story, to ask for help… THANK YOU! I appreciate each one of you. You are truly amazing people. You have touched my life. You have inspired ME. And to all of you who wanted to do the same, but for whatever reason felt you couldn’t. Thank you for being there, for listening, for asking questions, for returning my smiles when I met your eyes during my talk. I know I won’t change the world, but I believe that you can.
Now, for anyone who would like to see it, here is my handout. Please feel free to share it wherever and with whomever you like. I only ask that you refrain from editing it or claiming it as your own. 😛 If there is interest in a printable version (do let me know if that’s something you’d like to see) I’ll find the best way to make that available.
Tonight I spent the evening with Anthony. He was the coordinator for Camp fYrefly two years ago, so he’s definitely going to be my right hand man for the next six months. This job means so much to me, in so very many ways… and having a guy like Anthony by my side is only going to make it that much better.
I haven’t felt that lighthearted and that quickly connected with someone in a very long time. It was honestly like breathing for the first time. We just instantly seemed to accept one another as we were, for who each of us is. No expectations. Just open and honest. And by some twist of fate, we have SOOO much in common. So many of the same drives, the same passions. It really was awesome getting to know him. I am so looking forward to our next tete a tete.
At one point, a couple hours into our evening, Anthony got really quiet. And the tone became very serious. He said to me, “I don’t want to offend you… but…” I was nervous about what might come next. Questions and statements that follow something like that can be brutal, and slash a person to the core. He finished, looking quizzical but open and honest, staring into my eyes as if searching, “…are you in a heterosexual relationship?”
I’m sure I broke out into the biggest, goofiest grin. I laughed brightly as I answered in the affirmative. And he grinned and laughed with me.
It felt so good to be accepted for who I am without anything about me or my sexual identity just being assumed. Everywhere we go, people instantly judge us. They make assumptions about who we are, how we identify, making labels for us for their own convenience and security. It was amazing to NOT have all that taken for granted, to just be allowed to be me without it mattering, with the question coming almost as an afterthought, yet with concern about how it would make me feel.
Anthony? Tonight you affirmed for me all of the reasons I first wanted to apply for this position. Thank you!
It’s amazing to find such a fast friend. One you can open up to and share secrets with so very quickly. And I believe I’ve found that in Anthony. I look forward to many more evenings together with my right hand man.
Yay Camp fYrefly!