In my younger years I was extremely shy. I hid from cameras- of course it didn’t help my father was a photographer. I also had an afro that wouldn’t quit. My grandmother loved combing it out, it may have felt good, but the results were dangerous, Rosana Dana, eat your heart out (SNL old-school shout out). In other words, it was hard for me to hide. Not when I was enveloped with people whose hair didn’t poof out like an aura around them.
I grew up in a family of artists, so I was surrounded with creative people following their dreams. My father graduated from UC Berkley as an architect, and it wasn’t soon after that he decided it didn’t make him happy. So he became a fine art photographer. We traveled to art shows and festivals through my childhood, and I was privileged to be saturated with passionate people who were doing what they loved. In my teenage years I was ready to express myself. I may have been a wallflower, but that didn’t stop me from dying my hair fire engine red, then magenta, then green and getting my nose pierced. You could say I was a cross between a peacock and a chameleon.
Something that develops in the teen years is self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Most effecting, is the fear of not fitting in or being accepted for who you are. So, the two obvious paths are to either become a peacock and dare people around you to oppose your colorful display, or to blend in as best you can and not stick out. I am sad to say self-confidence issues don’t end in your adolescence, they just morph and change from displaying pink hair and letterman jackets to breast implants and sports cars (I have neither).
I helped my son’s forth grade classroom make pink batik shirts for an anti-bullying campaign a couple months ago. Let’s face it, bullying has always been a problem. More and more distressing stories are featured on the news about people being burned, beat and singled out for being different, or for making poor choices. Kids are committing suicide because they texted an embarrassing picture, or because they are harassed for being different. I know what it is like being depressed and not knowing the value of my own life. I am thankful I stuck it out and got through it all.
That curly hair I mentioned earlier, was at one time a fun topic for two girls who would tease me in the hallways. It made me feel like a reflection of a girl. Empty and sad. It is HARD being a teen today. Even harder with phones in every pocket ready to spread a rumor on a whim. The thing is, everyone is feeling the same way (sure in varying degrees) but everyone wants to be accepted for who they are. The easiest thing is to deflect your own angst and direct it at that weird guy, who wears the same pair of shoes every day, eats by himself and wears hand-me-downs.
You know the cool thing? Everyone is a peacock deep down- with colorful, creative and unique facets. Hiding in the shadows may be safe, but no one can appreciate you for who you are if you’re hiding. And if they can’t see the beauty in who you are, then someone else will. Not everyone has to like you. The only person that should appreciate the idiosyncratic details of who you are…is you. Things change, that’s a guarantee. If you aren’t happy with where you are now, then hold on. Just wait.
It was easy to write about the same plaguing issues with my characters, Chance and Ana in Fledgling. They both know they’re different, and don’t fit in; yearning to be accepted for who they really are. Where do they go from there? I don’t write and tell.
It has been a hard process for me, coming out from hiding to self-publish my own book. It takes a lot of guts to put it out there. But the reward is so sweet. When I get reviews from people who are reading my novel and enjoying it, it makes my day. I guess in the end my best advice is, be who you want to be, and dream what you want to dream. Because, anything is possible.