Being me

January 4, 2004

At eleven, my fifth grade teacher ruthless tore up in front of the class a beautiful drawing I had done, citing that tracers talentless fools had no place in her room. At thirteen I had my third ankle surgery (one on the left, two on the right) and my doctor said, �What a shame. You used to have such pretty little feet. Now, they�ll always be ugly.� Age eighteen led me into a hair salon where, for the first time in my life, my curly hair was blown dry straight. Everyone in salon ooh and ahh�d, saying how I finally looked nice with sleek hair and should never go back to curly.

From each of those moments on, I never though I was an artist, I never thought my feet could be pretty, and I never went a day with curly hair.

Last spring I was waiting at the bus stop and decided to take off my shoes for a moment to get rid of some rocks that had become lodge underneath. Sitting there barefoot for the first time in public, two women came by to also wait for the bus. One woman looked down at my feet and said, �Oh, how I wish I had your pretty little feet� to which her friend agreed. When I got on the bus, I sat and stared at my feet. The scars had long faded and were hardly noticeable anymore and in fact, my feet were pretty. That afternoon I stopped by a shoe store to pick up my first pair sandals and ended up spending the rest of the warm days barefoot. I�m even thinking of getting my first pedicure as a birthday gift.

This summer was unusually hot and my little flat left me sweltering each day. On one of these nasty afternoons I went, as usual, to sit under the blow dryer to begin the half hour task of blowing my hair straight. However, the heat of the dryer mixed with the heat of the day made me hesitate and for the first time in 11 years of straightening, I asked myself why I did this to myself. Did that woman�s opinion still matter despite the fact I hadn�t seen her since? I decided that no, what I was told so long ago didn�t matter. For the first time in years, I didn�t blow dry. I didn�t blow dry the next day either or the day after that. Six months later I haven�t touched a dryer and the interesting thing is, I�ve had more comments on how lovely my curls are than I ever did they were painfully straightened. And I love it more too as it feels more me and gives me more freedom � no more worrying about rain!

Last month I was asked if I could do artwork for a magazine cover. My first reaction was to say no, I am not an artist, I can�t do that. Design it, lay it out, sure but to do art work? I have no talent. Yet before saying no I thought about it. The woman asking me had seen some of my work and if she believed I could, why wasn�t it time I believed it? I heard my best-friends voice saying, �I always try before I say I can�t� and I ended up saying I could. I did a watercolour and with bouts of nerves in my stomach I showed it to the editor. She loved it, saying it was perfect and I now have a magazine cover to my credit.

I think everyone at some point is told something they aren�t or can�t do and we listen to that more than we should. Although we might be told a million positive things somehow, it�s the negative things we hold on to. But I also think at some point, when we�ve had time, experience and perspective, that we need to ask ourselves if those comments and ideas we are holding on to are truthful and serving us well. Most likely, the answer is no.

I decided to let go of the notion that I wasn�t an artist, that I had ugly feet and that I should only wear my hair straight. Doing that has given me freedom, happiness and a sense of power because now, I am deciding who I am and what I can do and not someone who has no idea.