Back in my youth I recall being told by my elders to ‘just be yourself.’ Interviews, auditions, performances – pretty much anything where you were tied up in knots and didn’t know what to do, the guidance was to be yourself. (Walking into the lunchroom every day and figuring out where to sit was definitely a performance situation.)
My self was a quivering bowl of jelly, tongue-tied and terrified someone would see me being a fool. The only thing to do was NOT be myself. Work up my courage and plan who I would be. Back then it was usually some pretty, popular girl in school (who in retrospect undoubtedly had the same issues – but socially awkward teens always feel so alone.) I would invent some cool as ice, clever person I could be for half an hour or so – and pray I didn’t get caught. Sort of like multiple personalities, expect they were on purpose – and if I wasn’t exactly in control – there was no doubt who was in charge.
As I got older that didn’t change much. I was operating on a case by case emergency NOT being myself response to job interviews, motherhood, employee, volunteer, boss, businesswoman… it wasn’t until I was well into my thirties before I could breathe normally and perform all the roles I was expected to master. And if something came up that rattled me a bit, it was easy to slip into a more comfortable personae to cope and then slip back out.
Then something odd happened… all those me’s I’d invented over the years sorted of melted into one new super-me. I went from a wallflower with nothing to say to a storytelling, wisecracking cymbidium. I suppose developmental psychologists call it reaching adulthood – but to me, it seemed a miraculous transformation. And it was very very cool. I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that being me was someone I would want to be.
Fast-forward to the present. I’ve done a lot of dreaming in the last two years – ain’t gonna stop – but it’s time for hard change. Changing jobs was big. For the first time in nearly fifteen years, I am not writing a monthly column – possibly even bigger. I’ve moaned about the paucity of time so long, and I’ve reclaimed about 60 hours a month. That’s 60 hours of quality time – not Monday morning at 5.30, or Sunday night at 11.22. I’ve been meaning to write and illustrate some more children’s books. A book on gangster movies would be fun. Yes, I know I should spend more time on fitness. And nurturing my friendships… But, if I’m not careful, it will be all used up – and I’ll be back to moaning…
Good time: time to conquer a new world, take on a new demon, discover an unknown talent. It’s time to reinvent. It will undoubtedly call for a new hat – though I’m hoping the helicopter proves unnecessary!