I have just been looking through some of Carol Rossetti’s images on Facebook (http://mic.com/articles/92651/18-empowering-illustrations-to-remind-everyone-who-s-really-in-charge-of-women-s-bodies). They have forced me to confront some ‘ideas’ about myself.
When I was a teenager, like pretty much everyone I knew, I thought I would be married in my mid to late twenties to a perfect man, have my career as a phenomenal teacher, be a writer and raise my perfect children. It was my happy ever after.
But my life hasn’t followed that path. Truthfully, I think I always knew it wouldn’t. I have never been ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’. I have tried to be that; have tried to look it, at least. Unsuccessfully.
In my mid twenties I was teaching casually; I had not found permanent teaching work. I was renting a house with teacher friends in Wollongong drinking two to three nights a week but living my life. I loved my housemates, like family, and I loved my lifestyle. Work by day, play by night.
Music became my hobby rather than writing and peaked when I performed, badly, on stage in a pub in Wollongong, Minstrel Boy on saxophone, to a full crowd. My youngest sister stood before me at the front of the stage with tears of pride streaming down her face.
It was a perfect moment.
I had conquered my shyness. I had done something I never thought possible. But it wasn’t the first time. And it wouldn’t be the last.
I had already had my first ‘ink’ done. On a holiday in Byron Bay. My own initiation symbol on my left wrist into Wicca. A token of my commitment to a religion I had always believed in and followed but had only just found a name for. A delicate band of energy with a small pentagram; a bracelet. I vowed it would be my only tattoo. I had never liked them; I thought they were unconventional and people always looked at and judged those with tattoos. If you knew me, you would know that that vow has not been respected. I have learned to never say never. The hard way.
And then came the dreadlocks which I wore proudly for over ten years before fulfilling a commitment I had made to my sister and a close friend to get rid of them if I ever found a way without shaving my head. And then I had curls, predominantly blonde, for seven and a half years, fitting in to society, its conventions for beauty and for femininity. Men found me attractive. I thought I was too, for the most part. Even though I have always fought with my weight, blonde hair afforded me the opportunity to almost be normal, to almost belong in a society that adheres to a strict code of what beauty is. A code that my weight always kept me feeling I could never fulfil.
After years of missing my dreads, of fighting past the identity having them had created, I made a deal with my hairdresser that if I fell pregnant I would get my dreads back. When I didn’t fall pregnant, I figured I should gain something and I organised to have my dreads put back in. Initially fearful, when I saw myself in a mirror, I knew it had been the right decision. I miss my curls from time to time; I struggle with not fitting in and belonging to my society’s notion of what beauty is, but I am me. And I am happy that this aspect of my external is very authentic to my internal existence.
This is who I am.
And I am not ashamed anymore, that this is who I am.
Aspects of this stereotype are embodied in me: left wing, slightly feral, slightly ostracised, different. I still do not lead the conventional life.
I am unmarried. I am single. I am childless. I do not own my own home. I am happiest and most connected when I am in nature. I am most authentic when I am on holidays; at home or away. And I do travel, journey, frequently.
And this lack of convention leads others to judge. I have often been labelled. Or I have feared it. Often seen it in the eyes of those that walk past me. But I am me. And there is nothing wrong with that. Or me. The wrong is in others. In their judgements. In their eyes.
I would have loved the conventional life but it was not my lot this time. I am richer for it. I think if I had followed the conventional path it would have resulted in my head in an oven, or my pockets full of stones, like so many others before me. Embracing who I am, in my life of non-convention, has afforded me a deep happiness and a rich connection with everything and everyone around me. I see the world through different glasses and I live my life through my own ideals.
And I am at peace.
My life is my own.