I’m sitting on a crowded train when I observe a man tapping his cane and singing with the kind of gusto fit for Broadway. To him the rest of us don’t exist. In his mind he’s just enjoying his favorite song, doing what we all wished we had the courage to do—sing loud and out of key and out of mind of our judgement. His oblivious bravado puts us in a state of amused discomfort. Some of us look on bemusedly, others record the display of don’t-give-a-sh** on our smartphones, and the rest of us sigh silently out of relief that this stranger has so graciously stolen the spotlight. I’m tempted to laugh out of nervousness; you know the laugh I’m talking about. The one we use when we want to say “Don’t worry everyone. I think this is totally weird and awkward, too, but I wanted to let you know by acknowledging my discomfort that I am, in fact, still as sane as the rest of you…”
But I decide against it, opting rather to observe with secret admiration. How he turns familiar public etiquette on its head to sing like we all do privately in the shower—I can’t help but envy that. I can’t help but respect how much he truly doesn’t care about what the people surrounding him think.
I can’t help but wish I could shamelessly take complete charge of a moment in my life the way this man does so naturally.
I personally shift constantly between feeling inadequate to feeling entitled. And every day I regard those dwelling in the proverbial “Land of Contentment” with envy and earnest curiosity, trying to learn the route they took to get there but it eludes me. Maybe it’s because my only companion is myself and I can’t pay attention to my road ahead of me when I’m spying on someone else’s. I get it; it’s unhealthy but we all do it. right? RIGHT?!
Lately I’ve been internally cataloging the things that make me happy, specifically things that make me happy outside of the approval of other people (because lets be real here, who hasn’t gotten into the trap of doing/documenting things based on it’s potential instagram-likitude?). I’ve been asking myself the difficult questions, while begging myself to be more understanding of my shortcomings. Not only does this present a challenge because I’m my own harshest critic, but I also guard myself behind a wall of self-analysis to find my flaws before anyone else does in order to fit in and avoid potential rejection. There’s a certain courtesy, a sense of polite shame I think many of us feel for not immediately having an insecurity on hand when shown a picture of ourselves. Do you know what I’m talking about? As if deep down we humans instinctively NEED to acknowledge the gross shape of our bodies, how weird and uncontrollable our hair is, or how we loathe the way our arms don’t look smooth and firm the way we want them to. I’ve been trying to not fall into this trap as often, but frankly it’s bloody hard.
However I’ve been taking solace in more than a few sweet victories that I can claim lately. Like how, for the first time in my life, I sort of feel more comfortable with my natural curls than with my hair styled; I’ll even straighten it for one day and start to miss the typical out-of-controlness that I’ve so stubbornly despised in the past. Some mornings I’ll look in the mirror and pretend I’ve never seen the person facing me before in my life, that I’m meeting her for the first time. In these moments I won’t list all the things that need to be fixed about her before I step out of sight. I allow myself to check her out instead. From my observations my list becomes a running log of the reasons this stranger on the other side of the mirror is actually kind of a babe. And I’m learning how this girl with chaotic hair and burgeoning self-love can summon her inner train car singer and progress slowly but confidently to Contentment. But what makes everything easier is the realization that Contentment isn’t some place that I need to find or earn passage into, but a place where I already belong.
(shout out to Tonya for taking these pictures)