A few months ago, Jenny the Bloggess (if you’ve never heard of her, then you are too normal for your own good) wrote about a red dress: a symbol for that impractical, overindulgent something that we all long for but never really think we deserve. She made me realize that too many times, we deny ourselves those secret longings — those things that our true self wants — because our public self thinks they’re too embarrassing, too over-the-top, too…honest. Maybe it’s because we fear the vulnerability of revealing who we really are. Maybe it’s because we’re not sure we’re okay with who we really are. Or maybe we just don’t think it’s important.
But it is important. Giving yourself permission to do more than just exist is important. And for me, that happened two weeks ago when I went to back to visit Palawan. My parents had built a new home near a beautiful forest on government land. Ever since I saw it, I’ve wanted to go and walk under those gorgeous trees, to feel the coolness of the shade on my skin, to listen to the secret sounds of the wind in the leaves. But there were many reasons not to bother: there was a fence around it, the ground was muddy from the rain, I hated mosquitoes, the neighbors might talk, and there were a lot of other things to do in the few days that I was visiting. But then I remembered that I’ve always felt most alive, most myself, in natural places, places where life took its sweet time and the trees and the birds ignored what the rest of the world thought about them. So on the morning of my last day at home, I ignored my public self and listened to what my real self wanted. I put on a red dress, as a shout out to Jenny and to everyone who heard her message, and slipped under the fence. I walked in those woods in a vivid, floor-length gown that a part of me insisted was ridiculous but another part felt absolutely beautiful in — and you know what? I didn’t feel like I was intruding. I felt welcomed there, among the rain drenched trees and the butterflies and the birds, as someone who was, for a moment, as truly and fully alive as they were. I belonged. I was happy.
But as perfect as it was, I know that it might take a while to learn to live life in moments like that. We’re too used to fitting in, to trying not to rock the boat. But maybe it’s time we listened to what our hearts are really telling us. We weren’t designed to just “get by”, we were designed to shine. Like that vibrant, outrageous red dress, there is intense, amazing beauty in us.
So what’s it going to take to make you feel that way? What makes your spirit come alive? Maybe it’s something as simple as going through the day with a sweet-smelling flower tucked behind your ear. Maybe it’s something as big as joining the Peace Corps or going back to school to study Fine Arts. Whatever it is, do it. Climb that tree. Adopt that stray puppy on the side of the road. Befriend a homeless person. Get up on the roof to watch the sunset. Take a ride on a hot air balloon. It’s not too silly or too insignificant — it’s living. And it’s never too soon to live.
Thanks for reminding me, Jenny.