You find ones that do.
For awhile, maybe you try to make it work, donning clothes too big and baggy that you look like you’re trying hide inside of. Perhaps you’ve outgrown your clothes and now they feel constricting and uncomfortable, your growth making it all too apparent that you have noticeably changed.
When your clothes no longer fit, you have to make a decision. Will you get something that’s the same as what you had before, just in a new size? Or will you take this chance to try something new? Will it be another black t-shirt and jeans year? Will you choose to blend in? You have a choice.
A few years back, in a world that seems very far away indeed, I started writing down my thoughts and publishing them for anyone to read. It was life altering. Where I had felt so alone in the small suburb I’d grown up in, I made that most cathartic of discoveries – that there were people like me out there who believed the world could be different.
I learned a new skill set, made new friends, and was introduced to possibilities I had no idea existed. My reality expanded to include ideas and concepts a few months prior I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend. I started to meet these people “in real life,” much to the confusion of friends who were still afraid of people on the internet. But I had so much more in common with these new friends that I couldn’t possibly go back.
After I’d been blogging a few months and making deeper connections with some of the people I’d met, I heard about a blogger meetup happening in Chicago. And I had this feeling like I had to be there. You have to understand how odd that was for someone like me. I’d done very little travel. The cost of a ticket was a fortune to me at the time.
But I had to go.
So I tapped my resources, fund-raised, and figured it out. (Even though someone offered to just buy me the ticket later, I didn’t take it.) And I did it. 12 days after I started, I got together the cash for the plane ticket for the trip I somehow knew was going to change my life. Running out into the heavy rain for miles, I laughed at the sky and sang Liz Phair at the top of my lungs and danced across stone walls. I did it. Chicago was going to change everything.
I had no idea.
It was an unbelievable few days, packed with experiences I hadn’t considered as options for me. It was crazy, sexy, fun, wickedly uncomfortable at times, and it left me reeling. Because everything that happened, I chose.
It was me who decided to forget my life back home for awhile.
It was me who decided I’d do something about that boy I liked. And that girl. Ooh, you know what? And that boy, too. And I did.
It was me who decided to kiss his mouth on my way out of town on the train, distilling the entire experience down to one unforgettable moment before I boarded my plane.
No one pressured me, no one made me do anything, and nothing was out of my control. Those decisions were mine, and despite the growing pains, the discomfort of leaving what I knew in the dust, and the lies I was about to start spinning, I didn’t regret a single thing.
On that plane ride home, watching dappled and glorious sunshine through peach and purple tinged clouds, my whole body was alive with the newness and intensity of it all. So this was a peak experience.
After that, I found myself questioning everything. Oh my god, did I really do that? Who was I? Were those decisions really mine? What kind of person did that make me? Was it who I wanted to be?
I’ve thought a lot about it. Obsessed over it. Because the aftermath hasn’t left an inch of my life unscathed by its touch. (And I still wouldn’t take it back.)
When I left my marriage a few months ago, I thought that girl from Chicago was who I was going to be. With no one to stop me, I could be that strong, ballsy female writing her story outside of societal boundaries and norms. I’d do what I wanted, I’d play the field, I’d upgrade my expectations – and my life. I’d be that woman I’d seen I was capable of being.
But it hasn’t quite happened like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong, independent woman and all that comes with that, and I love it. My expectations and life? Certainly upgraded. I do what I want.
But it turns out what I thought I wanted was, well, not actually what I wanted.
I cast lines out. The second I said I was single publicly, I was shocked at how many male friends suddenly came out of the woodwork. I had dates lined up, fuck buddies ready to go, big talk talked. OkCupid has been entirely too good for my ego. (I don’t know what people are talking about when they say they have trouble with online dating.)
I have lots of options. But once I got into that situation, it became clear that wasn’t what I wanted. I’m a lot of things, but it turns out being okay with casual sex isn’t one of them. That girl from Chicago might have been me once, but she isn’t me anymore.
In place of the standard route of self-destructive tendencies I usually opt for, I’ve been struck by this stunning honesty I wasn’t sure I was capable of. With all of my obligations stripped away, affectations have fallen to the side. Vulnerability has taken up permanent residence. And that thing I fear so much – softness – has taken hold in a way I’d never let it before. My values are driving my decisions in a way they’ve never been able to before.
By removing all of the baggage of a failed relationship, the heaviness of a complicated situation, the shame of an affair, the guilt of not regretting said affair, I’ve been left with very little that isn’t truly me.
My deepest longings are revealing themselves, these things I’d felt inklings of before but had never really given enough consideration to. Like how the writing I’d really love to be doing is more like this. Like how I want my work and life to all wrapped up in each other like new lovers. Like how I want dancing, music, and performance to comingle in this work, too.
Accepting this desire for more romance, more adventure, more truth in my life has brought it to my door in the most startling, wonderful way. And moving through this next phase of transition, I hope I can stay this open, this soft.
Not long after I moved, I realized I’d lost weight and none of my clothes fit. Looking again, I realized I didn’t like any of them anyway. Nothing felt like me anymore. Everything was drab, dark and gray. It was a wardrobe meant for holding back, hiding away in.
I found a boutique down the street, and I bought the brightest red dress I could find. Fortune favors the bold, right?
When the clothes no longer fit, it turns out what fits me best is happiness. (Well, and red lipstick.)