I have spent an outrageous amount of time in my life trying to "fit in." I remember how much effort and anguish I spent over the years trying to make sure that I didn't stand out, that I didn't draw attention to me, that I wasn't noticed by anyone in particular. Fading into the sunset., blend, blend, blend...don't rock the boat. As I am now older, and thank heavens a wee bit wiser, I understand that the people who stand out are some of the most interesting people in the room. They are the people I want to meet, the ones I want to spend time talking to. I am attracted to people who have a statement to make, a song to sing, a light that they want to shine.
This is why, on a cold, dreary day in February, I spent over $150 bucks taking my seven-year-old son to Comic Con, a convention of comic-lovin' free-livin' artists and expressionists from all over the Midwest. I wanted my son to see that it was cool to be different, that it was awesome to dress like a freaky character and walk around a brightly lit convention center, and that some of the coolest people you could meet definitely did NOT blend in. These are life lessons worth giving, non?
The scene was set with a crowd filled with colorful costumes. Not just your typical super-hero costumes, but warriors, gun-totin' characters from games I will never know, and even a few of the characters from Frozen (you cannot escape that movie!!) Every once in awhile I was reassured when I saw a Batman or Superman, a character that I recognized from my own days of geeking out with a comic book.
My sweet son decided to wear a Halo soldier mask to 'protect his identity' and express his ultra coolness, a mask from a violent game that he will not witness or play until he's 16. Or 19. He doesn't even know what the game is really about, but he knows the mask is ultra badass.
He strut up and down the aisle wearing his mask and the older costumed participants gave him high-fives and positive reassurances about how cool he looked. I stopped and marveled at a woman wearing a really intricate costume (pictured) of green vines which I'm sure that is a recognizable character to most attendees and totally lost on me, but I was most impressed by her excitement and enthusiasm over the fact that she had made the whole costume by HAND!!! Sheer joy and openness as I took her picture, complimented her self-expression and texted her the picture I just took.
We talked to artists who did amazing paintings, pictures and sketches of images from deep inside their imaginations. We looked deeply at figures and weapons and hand made crafts that people drove for miles to show off and sell. My son's eyes were wide as it took it all in. Trust me, there was a lot to take in.
My son felt right at home walking around, being himself. There was no sense of being out of place. He is still at the age where he's not very self conscious. We talked about how cool people are, how great it is that there are events like this where you can go and meet some outrageously interesting people. My dream for him is that he will remember events like this one later in life when he starts to question his own sense of self (as we all do at some point, I fear). I want him to remember that it is really cool to express yourself and not care what other people think about how you express yourself. I will always be the mom who will be encouraging of him to dress like he wants to and to wear his hair bright green or half shaved if that's important to his sense of self. Self-expression means being free to be YOURSELF. It changes, it morphs, and it molds around what you need in any given moment in time. It doesn't matter if your 13 or 81. A great deal of our sense of confidence comes from our belief that how we feel inside matches how we express it outside. I want confidence for my boy, and for you and me.
So, I'm encouraging you, dear one, to read this and think about how you want to express yourself tomorrow. What would you wear, think, do or say if you were as brave as my lil' man? What would you do if you were free to express yourself as you REALLY are.
Because, my loves, you totally are. I'll be there to give you the high five!