When I was 14 I knew everything and in many ways I did. My voice clean and pure, full of riotious indignation over human failures, with secrets I kept from everyone, except me. Hiding from myself wasn't something I learned how to do until older and smarter. For 8th grade graduation the students were given an opportunity to make a speech in front of classmates and parents. In English class the top soliloquies were chosen and pooled together to be voted on by teachers. My talk-a-thon became one of the chosen on the topic of "individuality". Friends knew this speech had been a way for me to flip the bird to everyone in school. Random hierarchies didn't make sense all those years ago and they still don't. As a collective we have a bubbling up process of popularity structure which begins in grade school. The kid who blows the biggest nose bubble with milk is famous for obvious reasons being that gross out is worth more than wisdom. What?! And yet, we continue to reward the rudest and crudest far more than those that move with beauty and softness.
What matters as we breathe in and out, walking this existence? Do fart jokes mean more than the origination of thought? Does Lindsey Lohan's real life implosion leave a bigger imprint than a 150 year old oak swaying gently in the breeze? Where will most of our daily thought linger? When I spoke of individuality at the beastly age of 14, the statement was made that I would live as I wanted, not as the junior high celebrity required. As with most bitch slap comments, the jumble of words were taken literally by The Universe.
The night before the big speech I wanted to look amazing for the performance and bought a package of hair streaking dye. The concept at the time was for hair to look "sun kissed", which seemed to be an inevitability living in Southern California, but in my eyes I had plain old brown hair. The color instructions required the goo be placed delicately in long strands from the root to the tips. Between us, my mother and I made one very inept hair stylist and we didn't qualify for being labeled color savvy, which is why when done I looked like a brown leopard with orange spots. In twenty four hours scheduled to give a speech on individuality. Which being uncompromising in my beliefs meant I wore a giant hat so my beauty wouldn't detract from the eloquence.
Every so often during the course of high school I'd run into a classmate who remembered my hair, not the speech.
"Did you mean to do those orange spots or did someone do that to you?"
In other words, was I trying to make a statement. The speech that day got lost. For me because I had yet to know what the words really implied and for the audience, I was just another kid rambling on about the importance of 8th grade and my big floppy hat madly distracting.
At 14 my voice was clean and pure; my secrets however, unshared. The individuality I hid with the big hat soon covered by little lies I whispered in my ear, a few dozen garbage bags of hurt and anger and gobs of weight gained after kids were born. There is wisdom in knowing my truth. Standing on the stage one hot June afternoon, I began hiding more than secrets, I began hiding who I was. In the yard a giant oak stands as no tree other than itself, gracing the landscape and my heart with a pure example of individual spirit. Today, old enough to know better, ready to show my leopard spots to the audience.