Being the Person You Were Born to be

I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school I kept trying to be someone different than I was. I remember one day where I decided this: ‘today I am going to be completely cool. I won’t be the yakking dork I usually am; I will be quietly and undeniably cool, and not let anything bother me. Today I’m going to be in charge of my emotions and not let anything get under my skin.’

So, how’d that go, you may ask? Not well—not well at all. Within mere seconds of walking into my homeroom, this happened: I tripped over my own big feet and dropped my books and purse, which immediately vomited up its contents, including my bright yellow tube of pimple cream, which landed at the feet of the handsome foreign exchange student from Spain. He gallantly handed it to me, saying in his charming accent, “Thees is yours, no?”

My face was flaming as I muttered my thanks amidst laughter from the class. All day long people would sidle up to me, saying, “Thees is yours, no?” and laughing their heads off. So much for being cool, calm and collected!

But in our youth we seldom know who we are, and we try out different personalities in an effort not to be who we believe we are. It is a rare young person who is confident in their own skin; generally it takes years to do so. However, whether we like it or not, we are who we are for a reason and a purpose. We may initially see real or imagined flaws in ourselves, but generally we grow out of most of it. In our youth, we are often unaware of the gifts we bring to the table. It takes time to find them, and often longer to appreciate them.

It took me a long time to believe that people around me liked me for who I was; family excluded of course. It was my family who kept telling me and showing me how much they loved me for simply being me. It took me years and years to realize that I had valuable gifts to share–and to believe in them.

This has been my experience, and yours may be different. But what we all share is that we are here not by chance, but for a purpose. You may be reading this and think, ‘well, I’m nothing special–I don’t have any gifts.’ Respectfully, that just isn’t so. You may not see what you have to give, but others do. You may not believe that you are anything but ordinary; your family and friends would disagree. Your life touches many, whether you speak to people, shake their hands, email them, or join an online forum. Your influence and personality touches others, and we may never know the impact that we have on others.

Do not doubt that you are here at this time to fully be the person you were born to be—who you are matters deeply.

That Was Then, This Is NOW

I’m sure that all of us  at one time or another have looked at our high school picture and thought, ‘I was a good-looking kid back then–why did I think I wasn’t?’ Well, that’s age and perspective for you. School, especially high school–where some of us wanted so badly to be cool and popular, pimple-free, good looking and confident–was a trial by fire and scorn.

Upon hearing the oft-repeated phrase, “oh, just be YOU. You’re fine the way you are!” didn’t help one bit. Back then it was so easy to pick out flaws and definitely ‘uncool’ things about ourselves. I realize that back then I was looking at each individual tree and not the whole forest. It was all too easy to try to compare myself to other girls, and in my mind, I always came out the loser.

Now that I am creeping perilously close to 65, I see things differently. I look at the wonderful pictures my dad took of me when I was in my teens–in them, my eyes are pleading ‘please like me. Please think I’m pretty.’ Back then I hadn’t yet figured myself out or realized that the gifts I’d been given had little to do with looks.

I used to work with a guy a few years younger than me who always kept a picture of his 17-year old self on his desk. When I commented on it, he said sorrowfully, ‘just look at all that glorious hair I had then! Look at how thin I was!’ His “present self” was older, of course, and had very little of all that hair. Each and every day he looked at that picture and compared himself to that younger, hairier self. I used to tell him, ‘that’s your past; that’s not who you are today. That was then, this (pointing to him) is NOW.”

Clearly he wasn’t pleased with the NOW. I never forgot that–the wistfulness in his eyes while looking back at his young self. Just about everyone looks good when they are young; that’s pretty much how it goes. But living in the past is like willing the tide to turn, or pulling the moon down to the earth. Things just don’t work that way.

It’s perfectly fine to look as good as you want to at any age. It’s ok to want to be young again, but since that can’t happen, why not embrace the person that we are now, right this minute? We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to look young. We just need to be who we are, and so what if we are no longer the hairy drummer in our old band, or the perfect prom queen we once were?

That was then, THIS–right here, right now–is NOW. Let’s not waste another precious moment mourning our past selves, but move forward to enjoy all the things that our PRESENT selves are and can be. It’s the ‘looking ahead’ that keeps our souls young and our eyes bright. In fact, here is list of some of the things that, being older, I no longer have to do (and am tickled to pieces about it):

  • No more going to work
  • No more wearing uncomfortable (but good-looking) shoes
  • No more running around the house with my hair on fire trying to do everything at once
  • No more taking all that time to look ‘perfect’ each day
  • No more worrying about what others think

And here are some of the many great things I DO enjoy and can do each day:

  • Cook whenever I feel like it
  • Apply minimal makeup with no ‘trendy stuff’ (NOTE: leave the glitter to the teens)
  • Walk outside in flowered capris, a t-shirt and a floppy hat to garden
  • Wear all the jewelry I want, even if I’m just going to the post office
  • Sit on the porch, drinking coffee and enjoying the parade of the world going by

Life is GOOD, but it’s especially good when we are old enough to REALLY appreciate it.

The “Honey,” “Hon,” “Sweetheart,” “Sweetie” Syndrome

It seems to me that the instant I started showing some silver hairs, I stopped being a “ma’am” or “miss” or even “guys” (when I am with the Crankee Yankee) at restaurants and retail. Now I’m called “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie.” I understand that service folks are trying to be friendly and chatty, but each time I hear those words, something that’s still young curls up inside me.

I’ll be the first to admit that I fully embrace age and retirement (and didn’t they come quickly!), including my looks and what I wear (let’s call that ‘comfort chic,’ shall we?). I still load up on jewelry; lots of silver bangles and rings, earrings and so on. I suppose that this only draws attention to my various lines, wrinkles and age spots, but I don’t let them bother me. Shoot, at my age my motto now is not “less is more” (that’s the one I use for makeup only), but “more is more!”

I am actually comfortable with my age and appearance. But it’s hard for me to keep hearing the “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie” appellations each time I go out to lunch. Again, I KNOW that the hardworking servers are doing their best to be friendly. It’s not their fault that those nicknames make me want to squirm.

Funnily enough though, I have no problem asking for the senior discount wherever I go. Hey, it’s one of the perks of being older. When I was young, I used to get impatient when older people around me constantly asked the price of things and was there a discount on such-and-such? In my then-young mind I’d say, ‘oh, for heaven’s sake, just pay the price already!’

But these days I get it. If I order the two tacos with a “signature side” of the house special mac and cheese and the waitress tells me how I can get a better deal by ordering the lunch special, where the mac and cheese is a dollar less–I’m all for it! That doesn’t sound chintzy to me at all; it sounds smart.

Ah, well, this is all what I call “POP,” that is, “Part Of the Process.” This particular POP is the getting-older one, and I guess the senior perks stack up higher than hearing the occasional “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie.” (I just hope that they don’t mistake my wincing at those names and think I’m having a stroke!)