Last week, I was immensely privileged to be involved in something I not only loved doing, but loved myself while engaged. I challenged myself and garnered self-esteem from the success of my endeavor, as well as plenty of kudos from a lot of people. I felt happily and blissfully at home within myself. It felt like the high of falling in love. I can’t wait to feel that again. And this feeling belonged to me, a gift from myself.
I vaguely remember attending parties in my twenties, where I may or may not have enjoyed myself, when someone attempted to make conversation and asked, “So, what do you do for a living?” Stunned and overcome with shame and queasiness, I was forced to share my shameful truth. I was a waitress or a maid or a receptionist or a bartender. Hoping to lure them away from my truth, I would probably redirect the conversation. My untold truth was that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. The expiration date on my childhood had come and gone and I’d spoiled while waiting to be purposed.
My wish for every child and/or teen is for them to find an activity in which they like themselves while engaged. If you do something you like to do, you may develop friendships, mentors, and self-esteem. People like to be with people who like themselves. My teen self based my self-esteem and power on my sex appeal. If I could prove my desirability, I had power. I didn’t need no stinking mentor. I was alone and I liked it that way.
I spent six years in a university to land a job in my field of choice only to discover my chosen field was full of egomaniacal jack-#*@es. This was bad news for nice little me. I was ashamed my college education seemed a waste. After receiving my BS, I still supported myself with restaurant jobs and never pursued any involvement in activities I loved, like writing or art. I didn’t want to mess my dreams up too. They were safe as long as I didn’t touch them.
Somewhere I read a quote that said life is what happens while you’re aspiring to other things. My life took a left when I said adios to the manifestation of my critical parent in husband form. It took another hard right when I needed a shoulder operation and the doc said no more waitressing. In new mental and physical places, far away from everything I’d ever known, I began renovating myself and the old house I’d bought with my second husband. I worked toward a place I had never been but knew existed; a safe and happy place to play and love being me.
Gradually I cleared the clutter from my brain and my space. I stripped away the dysfunctional relationships and the addictive behaviors, and I finally arrived in that safer calmer place. I discovered what I really loved to do. And I sort of I liked myself while I was doing it. If you had met me back in those promiscuous teen days, with my Farrah hair, tight black T-shirt, and attitude, you’d never guess I’d end up here in an urban town decorating, designing, cooking, gardening, and entertaining too. This is the real me.
I have found a place where my brain is really happy. My recent opportunity and challenge was a chance to assist the fund-raising committee for the church’s annual auction event. Immediately, I was designing the tablescapes, colors, installations, lights, and florals in my head. Mostly created with stuff I had or borrowed, people donated, or what I bought on super sale, I created a fabulous event space. With more than a little help from my husband’s lighting company, the ambiance was over the top.I think design and aesthetic beauty have an undeniable impact on our outlooks and psyches. The auction raised more money than it ever had before. The community was very appreciative.
I now know I should have gotten my college degree in either design or writing. However, I will continue offering my design help to people in need because it’s about the playing, not the money. Although making some cash wouldn’t be a bad thing. If you took me back to that party in my twenties but asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would now say, “I hope I want to be me when I grow up.”
(This was first published on Divine Caroline in October of 2009. I’ve revised it slightly to republish as the special event this year, featuring my inspirational event design, was held last night. And again, I felt the same rush.)