Out of the Closet

“Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy.” –Albert Einstein

I keep having dreams of not finding the proper outfit to wear.  It’s someone else’s closet. It’s my mother’s, my dorm roommate, or everything’s too tight or too loose.  And in the meantime, there’s a mob waiting outside.

When you grow up in a small city where everyone measures you up based on the ensemble (and heritage or drinks consumed,) it’s quite difficult to like yourself.  So, you try to conform, measure up to everyone’s expectations and follow the crowd. Until one day, you’re gazing at the truth mirror and notice you’re wearing someone else’s clothes. Or that you’ve been closeted inside too long. The recurring dream tells you: you are not comfortable in your own skin.

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”  -Rita Mae Brown

I used to worry about how people would take in my writing.   Brood over how many would read, if they read to the finish, if I kindled fire, or even had enough for a flicker.  But I’ve outgrown the need for validation.  As though I am now able to simply wear my heart on my sleeve: writing for me and the one or two souls that read; hoping for 1 or 2 things that set them alight; or have at least enough for a spark.

And there was a time when I agonized over the banquets at home.  I would lose sleep over the nitty-gritty, including the quintessential spoon rest. But the friends (let them be true) you invite must know you enough so mismatched plates or tarnished silver won’t ruin the reputation. They (let them be true) wouldn’t censure you for your faux pas.  And I tell you, they will see through and beneath your perfect tapestry anyway.

It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being- Eleanor Roosevelt

Absent a respect for your own truth, you lock yourself inside.  Closeted. Under layers.  It may be tough to find the self underneath shapeless, tight-fitting garb.  And, as you follow the crowd, you on the flip side, get alienated from yourself. Or despise the rebels and the freedom fighters, the ones who bravely stand their ground apart from everyone else.

To belong to oneself. And not anyone else. 

It takes pluck and boldness to live out of oneself, at home in one’s truth. You risk being alienated. An anti-social. A snob. (My sister tags me a hipster, but that’s still a label and I want to be my own brand.) When you have enough self-respect to know your own worth; you can ignore catcalls and jeers. You have gone through the wardrobe and thrown out the ones that don’t fit.  People think you are indifferent to the rest of the world. But you are not. You’re just being different.  Authentic makes you a mis-fit, of a cast unlike society’s mold.

And while you expect it’s simpler to borrow, mimic a trend, or tag along the mob, it is not. There’s a great deal of effort altering someone’s clothes so it fits you well. And then you’ll need to handle it with care, worrying about tears, minding that it gets tattered or worn-out. It’s also quite exhausting to keep to a trend.  Imagine the hours spent on research and development.  Lastly, there’s no telling where the mob will lead you, probably to your own graveyard.

This above all: to thine own self be true.” 

With the clothes that are yours, who cares if they’re worn out?  I adore frayed and threadbare; they’re more comfortable that way. Grow into yourself.  Be your own brand- with your own standards, your values, what you see as right, as wrong, the essential, and the unimportant.  And then, when you have worked that out, be responsible for the ensemble, and the space it takes in your closet.

(In the meantime, there’s a mob waiting outside.)


  1. van

    Hi Paula, I’ve been a lurker-fan of yours for some time now, and I just wanted to say that your writing does kindle a fire in this obscure reader. Thank you for sharing your gift for words.

    1. oysteronahalfshell

      Hi I just realized I didn’t get to reply to you at all. Sorry for the late reply. Thank you for such inspiring words. The words come and luckily, I catch them sometimes. I do hope I can merit the grace. All the best.

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