Look, we only have a limited number of days on this planet. Why waste them living in the beige?
I get it, beige can be comforting (almost). Sometimes the familiar feels safer than the unknown. Sometimes dimming your light for the sake of blending in seems important. And sometimes people spend their entire lives conforming to society's standards. They have trouble identifying who they are and what their true passion is. For them, it is easier to follow than to lead.
I'm not writing this to put people down. I'm writing this from experience. I chose to live in an uneventful mundane existence for many years. If I think about it long enough, I can try to blame it on others. But the truth is we all make choices every single day, every minute of every day. WE are all we have to blame, not out of guilt or shame, but just because we didn't know any better.
For me, I didn't want to rock the boat. I wanted to fit in. I strove to be a part of my community. The only way I knew how to do that was to blend in, like a chameleon. I tried to be like all the other wives, moms, coworkers. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to appear successful. I was insecure, self-conscious. I didn't want anyone to see what was really going on inside me.
We are all we have to blame, not out of guilt or shame, but just because we didn't know any better.
I believe that we are all born with innate abilities and talents to create - to create something, anything. Some of us are slow learners, like me. But that doesn't mean it's impossible to break free from whatever holds us back, no matter how long that takes.
The loves of my life have always been writing and making art. I started at a young age with journaling, sketching and oil paints. But as I grew into the angst of adolescence, my style changed into something edgier, a bit dark and definitely different than pretty landscapes and still-lifes. My tastes in the arts ranged from punk rock, with the soul-shaking voice and lyrics of Joe Strummer, to authors like J. D. Salinger, specifically the book, The Catcher in the Rye; from the funky contemporary artwork of Andy Warhol, to the over-the-top clothing designs of Betsey Johnson.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost. Adulthood came screaming into my life at the young age of 19. Before I even knew what hit me, I was married, had a baby, a mortgage and a business to run. The rat-race had begun, and every day was a "Ready! Set! GO!!" to the finish line - death. Sometimes death sounded like a better solution to me than life. I don't mean that I wanted to die, just that I'd rather close my eyes and fall asleep and never wake up. Some of you will get this, some won't. I had a load of responsibilities, unequipped to handle any of them, and felt like I was drowning most of the time. I wanted so desperately to do everything right, not make mistakes, and to be accepted by everyone.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost.
In a nutshell, I was a ticking time-bomb. I squeezed myself into a little box. It wasn't sparkly or brightly colored. It was beige, camouflaged. I became invisible. I became just like all the other housewives and moms around me. I didn't want to stand out. I didn't want anyone to think I was weird or different. Worst of all, I didn't want anyone to label me as one of those teenage pregnancy statistics. By the time I was 21, I had two babies to care for. Trust me, I got a lot of stares and hurtful comments just about everywhere I went.
Resentments and regrets were swelling up inside of me. My childhood dreams of traveling the world, meeting artists and radicals, and writing books about my experiences were tucked away in my memories until they finally disappeared in the category of "nonsensical things". I learned quickly to become practical and frugal. I got a cookbook and taught myself how to cook dinners for my husband. I stuck to a budget, changed diapers, and did it all with a smile.
It was just a matter of time before I imploded.
My soul was broken.
My record albums got put into boxes. So did my paints and brushes, journals and books. There were more important things to focus on now, like decorating a home (all in beige), grocery shopping for a family of four, balancing the checkbook and paying bills, laundry and cleaning the house. That pretty much summed up my days for a solid decade. I wasn't even 30 yet, and I felt like I was 50.
I got a desk job working for a local municipality. The benefits were great, the pay not so much. But my husband was the breadwinner so I guess it really didn't matter. I got the job because the kids were growing up, in school all day, and I was bored.
We moved into a cookie-cutter neighborhood where all the houses were beige. I hung a wreath on the front door so I'd know which house was ours (true story). My work wardrobe consisted of pleated pants and dress shirts - beige and white - and closed-toe black shoes, with no more than a 2" heel. My hair was pulled back into a ponytail and I didn't wear makeup. I was as beige as beige can be.
My soul was broken. That's the best way I can describe it - when you give up on life, settle for less than you know you deserve. You live a groundhog's day of existence. Day in and day out, you go through the motions. The routine becomes so ingrained that you could do it all in your sleep. That's how I felt for years, like I was in a coma.
There was nothing to look forward to. Spontaneity was gone. There were no surprises. Even hope faded away. There was no color left in my life. But all it took was a little nervous breakdown at age 34 to snap me out of it. Seriously, out of ALL of it!
Periodic meltdowns are important to encourage change in one's life - embrace them. I'm not recommending you force yourself to have one, even if that was a possibility. Trust me, they aren't fun to go through. They are downright messy, and if you're lucky you'll get some good drugs from your therapist. But for me, I chose to go directly through it cold-turkey.
The gory details of why the meltdown happened aren't necessary, they never are. The beauty of it is that it freed me from the life I was living, like being in a hypnotic state and finally opening my eyes. On the couch in a therapist's office, I took my first breath, seriously. I took a deep long breath like I was gasping for air. Sounds like being reborn, doesn't it? I think I was.
Colors started to appear almost immediately. This is no joke. I got my own house and decorated it with lots of vibrant colors. I grew a garden full of flowers. Beige no longer existed in my life. That included my job and the style of clothes I wore. A little bit of makeup and some hair-dye, and I was off and running into my new life. That's exactly what it was, a new life.
Sometimes changes happen quickly, sometimes slowly. In my experience, what appeared to happen quickly slowed down for a number of years. But that didn't mean they went back to beige. Something was percolating under the surface - creative dreams of deep burgundies and bright turquoise. My life was manifesting right before my eyes, like a magical trip filled with pinks and greens. Shimmering and sparkling like fireflies' reflections on a still pond during a warm summer's night, my world was evolving.
Effortlessly, everything blossomed in all of the colors of the spectrum, so vivaciously you could taste them. The sky was bluer, the leaves were greener. The rust-colored tones of the sunrise peered through my bedroom window, gently waking me into a day filled with yellow butterflies, bluebirds, and red roses. The world was more alive, I was grateful for my life just the way it was, and there wasn't a stitch of beige to be found anywhere in this new tapestry.
Look, we only have a limited number of days on this planet. Why waste them living in the beige? Be who you were born to be. Talk to a four-year-old to get perspective on life again. Jump in the mud puddles, sing loud (even if you sing off-key), splatter some paint on a canvas, write something really horrendous, eat a big hunk of chocolate cake and wear your best dress while doing it. Break some rules, skinny-dip, laugh a lot. Stop taking yourself so seriously that you can't even stand to be in your own company. Love your body, color your hair pink or blue or purple. Dig out those old record albums and play them all night long. Dance, act in a play, push your boundaries. Be unapologetically brave. Pull out your courage and expose it to the world. Take back your power and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
Choose to be red, or yellow, or orange, or any other color you want. Live today like it's the last day of your life, and never look back.
Thanks for reading.