Once upon a time, I was a dreamer. I had an absolute faith that life was going to be better because I willed it so. I also wanted really hard to believe in unicorns and fairytale endings. Then that unicorn took a massive dump on my happiness.
You would think I was talking about a point in my early childhood—that moment you learn Santa Claus…(spoiler alert)…isn’t real. GASP! You’d be wrong.
I joined the Army at age seventeen and tripped off to be All That I Could Be.* I survived the brutal, non-reality of basic training and apparently fit in well enough that no major alarms were sounded to clue the Army into the fact that I wasn’t all there to begin with.
They hadn’t seen my graduation photo apparently:
[Read here for the story behind how this unicorn is a metaphor for the pursuit of happiness. It’s one of my earliest posts and I am ridiculously proud of it.]
Before I joined the military, I enjoyed the bravery of the clueless. I would dress up and play costume characters and if I cared at all about anyone’s opinion, I can’t remember it now. I was courageous in a way that doesn’t win awards or ribbons. Perhaps it was a stupid kind of courage, but at least I could say I had a bravery of sorts.
While stationed at DLIFLC, my mother sent me a much-longed for cabbage patch doll. I had asked for this for years when I was a kid…and not until I am a hardened soldier does she finally come through. Do I hide it or give it away? No! I have BDU uniform made and put it out on my dresser.
I am unphased when fellow soldiers snatch the orange-haired mascot and hang it on a chopstick cross:
Slowly, my naiveté was battered by other people’s opinions—either by deliberate attacks of cruel humor or possibly just as the result of bored human beings finding a target—I became embarrassed about being who I was.
I only dressed up for Halloween and then, I stopped even doing that. There was no occasion besides theater that was an acceptable outlet. I allowed the world to whittle away at the personality that made me who I am. I changed from an eager, enthusiastic person to someone who expected criticism, rejection, and small-minded hostility. It is like having the happiness cut out of you with a rusty spoon and then force-fed back to you in the form of a bitter pill.**
I became unhappy with the parts of me that used to make me happiest. And that is about the saddest thing you can let other people do to you.
At some point we all grow up—skinned emotional knees and all. And while it is painful to remember the idealistic youth who had no problems dressing like her cabbage patch doll and carrying it around as if the world wasn’t waiting to make fun of someone for doing it, it is also empowering. Looking back, I realize I was a lot stronger than I ever knew…in my own, spectacularly goofy way.
The happy ending here is that, eventually, I found my way back to my silly side. I dress up for any reason I damn well choose. I not only march to the beat of my own drummer—there is an entire chorus line of drum majorettes spinning flags to boot. And cow bells. You can never have too many cow bells.
So to all you dreamers out there, let your weird flag fly. Ignore the derision and ugly hostility that stems from others not able to understand where being yourself is more important that anyone else’s vision of who you should be–Cabbage Patch Dolls and Unicorn dreams and all.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*This was before the slogan was changed to ‘Army of One’. I am absolutely sure this change had nothing to do with my becoming a soldier. Or, at least, I’m pretty sure.
**The FDA should put warning labels on people who do this, so you can recognize a toxic substance and avoid exposure.
***Unicorn poop is delicious apparently. Check here for the non-sequitur video of the week.