Yesterday a vital component of human nature became apparent to me, in the same way a toddler suddenly understands that if they hold on to the coffee table, they can stand up.
As a child I delighted in standing out. I was attracted to the centre of attention in the same way a crack addict is pulled towards their next hit. My parents never had to fear for loosing me at a party, because they knew they would find me wherever the most noise and bustle was. Usually, I was the central instigator of the commotion.
As I got older, I withdrew into the sidelines. Innocence started forgetting to protect me and the world became a lot scarier. Crowds became unpredictable. People became predators in my mind and the streets of the cities I had grown up exploring, lead me to the places I never thought existed. So to stay safe, I faded.
The most noticeable change was that of my wardrobe. My clothes became strictly navy and black. Maybe a very dark grey. Grey, the colour of the smoke I wanted to imitate. I deliberately stopped talking so much. Before any social occasion you would find me staring myself down in the mirror, repeating the words, ‘Don’t talk so much.’ Over and over. I didn’t stop talking because I had nothing to say. I stopped talking because I didn’t think anybody wanted to listen.
In my silence, I learned how to listen instead. In fact, I became so good at listening that I became the worlds closest confidant. I was bemused at first, but people lusted to tell me their stories. I think in reality, everyone yearns to tell their stories, but most of the time nobody shuts up long enough to get a word in edgewise.
I’ve slowly been reclaiming the right to my voice. I no longer chastise myself if I spend more than a few sentences in control of the conversation. And I think it’s time that I let my story tell itself on my skin. Humans are just happier, I think, when they let themselves become a canvas for self-expression.
The woman that walk past me in the streets, covered in tattoos understand how to tell their story. So do the girls with dramatic makeup and ribbons in their french braids. I think everyone reserves the right to decorate themselves with all the things that tell their story.
I don’t quite know how I intend to decorate myself yet. Maybe, I’ll get a tattoo. Maybe I’ll buy some bright red lipstick. Maybe I’ll buy a long board and start wearing baggy shirts and baseball caps. Maybe I’ll shave my head. In all honesty, none of these methods of decoration are likely going to tell my story the best. But the most glorious thing about having the right to decorate yourself, for no other reason than to tell a story, means that like the story changes, so can the decoration.
Embrace the freedom of not knowing how to tell your story. Wake up tomorrow and decide you’re a bohemian hoodlum who doesn’t eat cheese and plays the harmonica, then the next day decide you wear corporate clothing and carry a large leather briefcase with you everywhere you go.
If you try on enough costumes and discard the garments and props with just as much careless passion, eventually you are going to collect the aspects that you want to incorporate into your self-decoration.