Last week at LegoLand, my daughter asked for her face to be painted. We stood in line and watched as each little girl stepped off the bench after being transformed to a princess or flowery fairy. When it finally came to our turn, my little 5-year old said, “Can I be a skeleton please, Mommy?” My jaw moved to talk her out of it but I’ve learned to let her be her amazing controversial self. I envy her individualism- all she needs is to know that Mommy & Daddy think she’s beautiful no matter what. There’s incredible pressure to fit in and even as adults, I think people still “screen out” folks that are not like us in one way or another. I’m proud of my daughter. As she starts primary school this week, I will continue to support her in being herself no matter what. I learn from her every day and I feel blessed to have her in my life.
My 5-year old daughter LOVES music. She’s got a great sense of rhythm that even her teachers have picked up on. Each time we are in the car together and I’ve got music playing, she sings along – particularly if it’s a female artist. She also makes special requests like, “Mummy, could you play that song with the girl that wants to wreck a ball??” Then I skip to Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’. As she listens to the song, she will often ask, “Mummy, is the girl in the song happy or sad?” Most of the time, I say the girl is sad. I see in my mirror that my daughter becomes sad too. Suddenly, a somewhat meaningless song becomes a sadness-inducer. Today – a day after my birthday- I couldn’t help thinking about how I often let other people’s feelings or disposition smear on me.
I admit that for most of my life, I’ve been virtually obsessed with what people think of me. At first, it was a guide as I picked up social norms in the different cultures I was raised in. People’s reactions to me helped me know if I was doing the right thing. If people seemed anxious, I would become anxious too. If they appeared pleased, then I was pleased. For years, I learned how to behave by observing people’s reactions to me. I suppose it’s a skill that everyone picks up from early years but it often made me miserable. Ultimately, people are inconsistent and unreliable. They approve of you today but they are not sure of you tomorrow.
I recently started reading a book on authentic leadership (True North by Bill George). As I read the first few pages, I realised that I’d carried a bad habit into my adulthood. I thought I was being self aware by considering others’ reactions to me but I was really being self-conscious. Self-awareness is considering my own reactions to situations – identifying my triggers and managing them. I can’t control how people feel or what they think of me but I can control how I react to it. I’ve found this realisation liberating. I can be myself far more freely without the extra pressure of guessing, considering and trying to change what people think.
I’m now really loving my mid 30s as it’s so much better than my mid 20s. I suppose with age, who you really are cannot stay hidden.
I shot this on Sunday afternoon near my home. I caught one glimpse of it and had to make a U-turn.
The scene represents a friendship left to die, passion allowed to wither and a life once energetic, ultimately not lived to its full potential…
Photo credit: Yekemi Otaru
The morning breaks, still in darkness
No pings, no audience, just emptiness
Thoughts awaken a quiet buzz
I’m not as sane as I once was
Wonder what the radio man meant
When he said falling ice will soon melt
I can’t thaw this eerie possession
Car engines drown the obsession
Senseless rock music plays my mind for days
I’m all smiles, but my head is clearly in a haze
Alone, I laugh at my perverse fondness
Are these not the signs of madness?
Snowflakes signal a chilly Christmas
Perhaps the blessed will amass
The bitter-sweet gift of forgetfulness
While those conflicted thirst for sure signs of madness
poem & photo by kemi otaru