When I was a child I was crazy outgoing. I would talk to anyone and everyone about any topic imaginable. I was loud, I was dramatic, I was passionate, I talked a lot. And I wasn't bothered by it. I was myself, I was confident, I was happy.
But somewhere along the line, people started telling me that the way I was was not okay. Being dramatic was bad, being loud was unacceptable, talking as much as I did was impolite. At first I didn't care. But then I gradually began to shove those louder and more dramatic and more crazy bits of myself way, way down and cover them up with a layer of feigned "perfect." I couldn't cover it up completely - I was still extroverted and passionate - but I was no longer unafraid to show my colors. I was no longer unashamed to be who I actually was.
This burying of my identity went on for years. Every time it started to come up to the surface and peek out, I'd recieve the same response.
"You never stop talking."
"You are such a drama queen."
"You are so weird."
Responses like this would prompt me to pull back and shove down again, all in the hopes of making people happy. This went on through junior high and high school and didn't come to my attention till about a month ago when for whatever reason, I started gradually letting it out.
I was at a coffee shop a couple weeks ago with some of my closest companions, listening to a charming, blue-eyed music man strum familiar chords on his guitar. I made some grand gesture with my arms or said something ridiculous, I don't remember which, and upon realizing what I had just done, I shrunk back and folded my hands in my lap as I mentally slapped the goofy smile off my face.
"Why do you do that?"
Laura is the big sister I have always wanted. I call her Blackbird and she calls me Compass and she has an uncanny ability to see into my very soul when I least want people to.
"Do what?" I asked her, truly uncertain as to what she was inquiring about.
"Shrink back like that whenever you do something crazy. There's nothing wrong with being crazy, it's you."
Laura is most certainly an authority on this subject. Over the two-ish years that I have known her, I have watched her grow into this bold, bright, outgoing, utterly insane human being who couldn't care less what the world thinks. She dances in restaurants and wears bright colors and does whatever the heck she wants without even blinking. She is the walking epitome of self-confidence, completely different from who she was just before I met her. She grew into her true self in recent years. Like a butterfly.
I sit back and ponder the answer to her question. "I . . . don't really know."
The thing was, up till she asked, I had no idea that I shied away from boldness like that. I didn't know that I was ashamed of my crazy, that I silently chided myself whenever I did something dramatic or dumb. I truly believed that I knew who I was and I was confident and only in that moment did I realize that there was another whole side of myself that I had unknowingly shielded from the world's eyes.
We all migrated to Old Chicago at that point and the same thing happened again. I did something crazy, I withdrew, Laura confronted me about it. Every now and again she does this thing. She sighs dramatically and turns her body towards me and raises her voice and talks about how freaking awesome I am, not sparing a single swear word. It's actually really cool.
So that night we tried to delve into why it is that I do what I do. We didn't come to any conclusions at the table, but we did get up and dance to the Elvis song that was playing at one point.
That night, driving home, I thought long and hard about everything that had gone on and I began to understand about how being told that my personality was a little too much had affected me. Deeply. Before long it was all clear as crystal, and since then I've tried my best to not have an issue with me.
See, the thing is, I am a drama queen. I have access to a lot more volume than I realize most of the time. I talk way more than the average person and I have a lisp caused by the overbite that nobody notices until I mention it. Occasionally I speak in a little kid voice or make a big deal out of nothing. I snort when I laugh and trip when I walk and this is the point that I am trying to get at:
Charity Segovia is a decently insane writer-girl with wild hair and bright eyes and she sings all the time and she almost perpetually has something written on her arm and I couldn't care less if you like her or not because whether or not I feel like it all the time, I love her.
I love her.
I LOVE HER.
I love her overactive imagination and the fact that she can't dance. I love that she tries really hard to be an optimist and sucks at it sometimes. I love that she loves Aaron Tveit more than should be humanly possible. I love that she thinks she's a pirate and loves glitter way too much. I love that she adores musical theatre and makes awesome movies and covers songs with her friend Monica. I love that the only things she knows how to cook are macaroni and cheese and sandwiches and kick-ass lemon bars and that she writes love songs for random people she meets in coffee shops and will never see again.
We were charged with the command to love our neighbors as ourselves but we spend so much time focusing on the "love your neighbor" part that we completely forget about the second part.
How can we possibly love other people if we can't even love ourselves?
Believe me, I know better than anyone just how hard it is to love yourself. But there is a level of freedom that comes with doing so that is completely unreachable by any other means.
Yeah, maybe Charity's a klutz. Maybe she's loyal to a fault and has dance parties with herself in her kitchen.
But she is also a writer with talent beyond her years. She's not afraid of confrontation and believes in the power of prayer. She thinks the sky is the most beautiful thing ever and is decently obsessed with colored jeans. She loves the feeling of being on a stage and she cannot listen to Fleetwood Mac in the car without her windows down. She has a killer singing voice and loves people fiercely and I wouldn't trade her quirks for anything.
Being yourself in a world that may not like it very much most certainly can be scary. But it is also beautiful. And I am beyond stoked to begin doing so.
(And for anyone wondering . . . that would be Laura)