Last week, I was immensely privileged to be involved in something I not only loved doing, but loved myself while doing it. 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 can remember attending a party in my twenties, where I may or may not have been enjoying myself, when an unknown someone, attempting to make conversation, asked, “So, what do you do for a living?” Stunned and overcome with shame and queasiness, I was forced to share shameful truth. I was a waitress or a maid or a receptionist or a bartender. Hoping to lure them away from my truth, I redirected the conversation. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. The expiration date on my childhood had come and gone. 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. As a teen, my self-esteem and my power were based on my sex appeal. If I could prove my desirability, I had power. No need for a mentor. I figured this out all on my own.
I spent six years matriculating at a state university to receive my degree in mass communications. I landed a job at a local television station only to discover a field full of egomaniacal jack-#*@es. This was bad for nice little me. I was ashamed to say 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 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 my shoulder needed an operation and the doc said no more waitressing. It took another hard right when I said adios to the manifestation of my critical parent in husband form. In a new physical and mental place, far away from everything I’d ever known, I began fixing up myself and the old house I’d bought with my soon-to-be second husband. I worked toward a place I had never been but had faith it 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 have thought I would have ended up here in an urban town, a Martha Stewart junior with less of the psycho type-A tendencies. I love decorating, staging, designing, and creating an aesthetically pleasing space and experience. I love cooking, crafting, and gardening too.
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, and floral in my head. Mostly created with stuff I found, people donated, or what I already had, I created orange screens with fountain grass baskets in front, fabulous lighted curly willow trees on the food tables, and skirted tables with flower arrangements in pumpkins. Did I mention the lights from my husband’s lighting company that put the ambiance over the top? 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 design. However, I will continue offering my design help to people in need because it’s about the playing, not the money. 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.”