At work this morning, I went into the restroom to wash my hands and noticed that the hand soap was different. It was a bit thicker in consistency, it had a pale green hue and smelled floral, rather than institutional, like the hand soap I have become accustomed to over the past two years. I quickly remembered that last week my company hired a new cleaning crew and realized they must have made a change over to their preferred brand. As I continued with my hand-washing ritual, while feeling all the sudden defiant and a bit bratty, I thought to myself, “Well, I hope I like the new hand soap – not that I have a choice in the matter.”
It’s as if that thought of having no choice in the change of hand soap had opened an escape portal for some hidden stubborn, opinionated, rebellious girl inside me. Some girl that was offended that they (whomever they happened to be) had the nerve to change things up on me. Who asked me if it was okay to change the hand soap?! On the way back to my desk, I found myself questioning all the other things that, on a daily basis, I’m expected and forced to be okay with, or at the very least accept, just because that’s what’s been given to me and I have no other choice in the matter.
I’m reading a book on non-conformity, which I’m sure is fueling at least part of this insane outrage. The book was suggested to me by my friend, Nancy. She’s reading the same book, which I find is becoming more and more of a habit, and a dangerous habit at that. But, I digress, this isn’t about my book reading habits – back to non-conformity.
I’ve always been one to go against convention. I question authority (which oftentimes wasn’t the most non-confrontational decision growing up). I am overly curious – I ask too many questions and frequently ask the questions no one else has the gall to ask. I’m rebellious and stubborn, I’m hard-headed. I have actually found a place on the map, named in my honor, Brandi Land – the place where I am the Queen of my own crazy kingdom and the only place where my ideas actually make sense to others; I’ve also been called Brandi-capped. But all of that’s okay – it means that people recognize I am different, that I think outside the box and that I am not like anyone else.
Now, I realize that the hand soap thing may not be the best example of things to contest in my life. I can assure you if I raise a stink about all this forced radical change at work, two things will happen: my company will finally get the confirmation they’ve been looking for that I really have “lost it” and I’m sure I’ll have to make a not so quiet exit Jerry Maguire style. I don’t really think forming a coup to overturn the powers that be over this hand soap thing is the best idea, so I will calmly let it be.
But I realize now that I’ve adopted this practice of calmly letting it be for so many other things in my life and in so many way I’ve lost myself in some dreadful state of settling for mediocrity and unhappiness – all in the name of doing what’s right, what’s expected and/or what’s conventional…what I’m supposed to do. I’m not happy where I’m at in life, with who I’ve become or what I’m doing. And I’ve realized over the past several months that I’ve buried myself so deeply in all that I’m not, that I really am struggling to find who I truly am. There are so many things that, so long ago, I always wanted to be, but even now, those ideas of who I was supposed to be are almost outlandish and ludicrous. I am that tainted with this thing called convention and the idea of conformity because of “supposed-to’s” that I even question why I would have ever wanted to be any of those crazy things in the first place.
As I sit in a moment of quiet contemplation, in a practice of deep reflection, I find myself. I look within and find that same audacious girl that was once there that I learned to hide away. I find that same bold, curious, inquisitive girl that got shuffled around and tucked away somewhere between the cannot’s and should not’s of life.
I’m not a dreamer, I’m a doer. I’m not an idealist, I’m bold and tenacious and stop at nothing to get what I want – to be what makes me happy. I know what I want to do. I know what and who I want to be. I know who I am. Even as I awoke this morning, I found myself reaching to who I was and who I once again hope to be. I awoke this morning thinking that if I want it badly enough and if I work hard enough that maybe I can be that again some day. But that’s not good enough. That’s not good enough! I boldly and arrogantly question the authority that is me, “Who am I right now?!”
Right now I am what I always have been. I am a creative, I am an artist – a painter, a sculptor, a photographer, a writer, a musician and whatever else that lets my ideas and emotions flow. I never stopped being any of those things, I only stopped doing those things. I stopped doing what I love because somewhere along the way I got the mad idea that it was not acceptable to do those things, to be those things. I was expected to like the hand soap because that was my only option and I had absolutely no choice in the matter.
But I realize now that I don’t have to like the hand soap. I don’t have to use it, either. At any point I can choose to use different hand soap.
I’m going against convention. I’m questioning everything. I’m questioning everyone. I’m not here to live anyone else’s life or be anyone else. I am here to live my life and be me. So what if it’s not what’s expected? What’s the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is that I pull myself out of this mundane miserable life of being someone other than me.
In the spirit of washing hands and hand soap, I wash my hands of this person that is not me that I’ve learned to layer on top of the me that I really am. I wash my hands of the not-doing and the accepting and the settling. I do not like the hand soap and I don’t have to like it just because I have no choice in the matter. I do have choice and I’m choosing to use another. Conventions and expectations be damned, it’s time for me to be who and what I am – today I am that. I am me.