By Amy McCollom
The iconic movie “The Breakfast Club” presented a powerful question to all of us back in the 80’s when the kids serving the Saturday detention were asked by Mr. Vernon to write an essay telling him who they think they were. The five kids found out when they got real with each other, that they all shared a little bit of each other’s stories and personalities. They were all a brain, an athlete, a basket-case, a princess, and a criminal.
Mr. Vernon saw them how he wanted to see them, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Oh, how many times have we judged a book by its cover? A person by their wardrobe? A student by their cleanliness? A neighbor by their rudeness? A dog by its bark? It says more about us than it does about them.
How we see ourselves is different than how others see us. Human nature. We all want to belong to a group. So we mimic behaviors, copy movements and actions. That’s how trends and fashion fads got started. People are so driven to fit in and be liked they will do about anything the ads and social media proclaim to be “what everyone is doing.” It’s no wonder we have lost a sense of who we are in the madness of a cognitive advertising blitzkrieg! Be young forever, they say! Wear this! Do this! Lies.
I went to a funeral visitation for my cousin and I was surrounded by family. Although I felt the closeness of being with my tribe, I also felt and heard the comments regarding my gray hair, the way I looked just like my mother. I had changed; I had gotten older. They had too, but I was polite. I was there to comfort and pay respect and also to mourn. I hadn’t seen these people for several years so it made sense that we would all look a little different. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to hear all the comments. For a minute there I felt a twinge of old-age panic creep up on me.
The next day I looked in the mirror long and hard in the bright sunlight. I really do look like my mother. I asked myself if I wanted to try and disguise my looks, grow out my hair, dye it blonde again, get a treadmill, get in shape, try to look young again? No. I was young and active and sexy once. I can’t even get my arm up and around my head to comb out my hair since my shoulder surgery, plus my CPAP straps and the velcro would have my hair in knots. Plus, I don’t have the energy to “be young again.”
Bleaching my hair was causing it to fall out, so I stopped doing that over a year ago, and I like the silver and gray shade it is now. I also like my short hair that is easy to care for and doesn’t get stuck in the velcro of all the straps I wear at night for my sleep apnea. As far as a treadmill, that I might do just to stay active, but I have bone and tendon problems so I’m not going to do anything too crazy.
I decided that I’m ok with getting old. If I happen to look like my mother, then so be it. It’s in my DNA. John happens to look a lot like his dad, and that’s ok with me.
There is a great comfort in accepting who you naturally are and not fighting to be somebody else. I’m glad I can just be me, like it or not, this is who I am. Honest and humble, gray and silver, and a little fluffier and harder to kidnap..
Some people have a hard time with identity. I think they get a picture in their mind of who they would like the world to see them as, and they try to live up to that image. Even the richest people with the most resources can only keep that up for so long. Eventually they just look like they are trying way too hard to be something they are not, and it’s sad.
I saw an interview with some of Hollywood’s old stars who have shows at Branson and Las Vegas, and I was surprised they were still alive and working shows. Do you remember Charo? She was a hot one when I was a kid. Oh my goodness, I think she is 95 percent made of silicone and plastic now, or maybe she’s a vampire, or both. As much fake stuff you can add to or in your body, it’s scary, and ugly too. She looked like a talking melted wax statue.
So I said all that to say this: Be happy with who you really are. Aging is a natural part of life. Enjoy every stage, because there WILL be stages. You will be young, middle aged, and old. Life will go much smoother (and less costly) if you accept the changes as they come and roll with it like the waves on the ocean.
If most people live about 70 years, then that is 25,550 days you have to spend on this earth, some more, some less. Don’t waste them. Be authentic, you’ll still fit in. Remember – we are all a little bit of a brain, an athlete, a basket-case, a princess, and a criminal.