In between celebrating my birthday yesterday with red velvet cupcakes and being beaten with eucalyptus leaves at a Russian bathhouse, I was reflecting on how far I’ve come since I took this self-portrait, the first in what became an annual tradition. Other than to serve as proof to my 80-year old self that I didn’t always resemble a member of The California Raisins (remember them?!), the point of taking my yearly version of a “selfie” was to remember exactly how I felt in that moment and remind myself of what I learned since then.
People are always complaining about the effects of aging – their metabolism slows down, they can't handle alcohol the way they used to, etc… But having reflected on the birthday that just passed, what I notice has less to do with my body and more to do with my mind.
For example, in my early twenties, I never had to mentally wrestle with the pros and cons of dating younger men because everyone I met was my age or older. Now I can’t gauge the age of potential suitors because once guys hit a certain height and maturity, they all look the same. I'm starting a petition to have guys' foreheads tattooed with marks indicating their age, much like rings on a tree.
On a more intellectual level, here are 4 ways I’m striving to become more badass this year:
1/ BE A FREAK
“Let your freak flag fly." – Leslie Ehm
Attended a training session by this dynamite woman about networking and standing out from a crowd and even though the talk was directed at students attending Next Gen Dinner Series, I found myself nodding along, the wisdom relevant to my (comparatively) ancient self. If I hide my “freak” because I think it’ll get me the job I want (or the guy or I think it’s more “socially acceptable”…) then if I get that job, I have to pretend to be that FOREVER. Or at least until I quit. I want to be where my freak fits in, not where my freak thinks it wants to fit in.
2/ BE DIFFICULT
“… I’m like most women, very generous and I’ll compromise, and he doesn’t compromise his art. I used to be afraid of people thinking I was difficult or too critical and I don’t really care about that anymore, as long as it’s for the right reason and I learned that from him.” – Beyoncé (on Jay-Z )
Slay, Queen B. Slay. When she said this in the documentary Life is a Dream, the words really resonated with me. I didn’t realize how many times a day, in every facet of my life, I fail to voice my opinion or to push harder for what I want; what I believe because I’m afraid of sounding difficult. How ridiculous is that?! Some things are worth fighting for and my artistic integrity and being my authentic self is without a doubt one of them.
3/ BE YOURSELF
“If what someone else says can easily derail you, it means your sense of self isn’t that firmly established in the first place. It’s an inside job.” – Emma Stone
It’s easy to blame circumstances and other people for our insecurities – my partner isn’t supportive enough, my boss is too critical, my friends don’t understand – but it IS an inside job. Confidence comes from knowing who you are so fervently that no insult can penetrate your armour of self-awareness. The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate myself and the less I pretend to be things that I'm not.
4/ BE CURIOUS
“If you can let go of passion and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Like I always tell my mom, I didn’t go to an art school so I could work for the government and let my soul die (albeit with job security, generous holiday time and benefits). Pursuing my passion has always been a priority for me but since I’ve graduated school, there’s a lot more pressure to CATCH my passion. Focusing instead on following your curiosity lowers the stakes and lets me enjoy the journey more instead of pinning all my happiness on the end goal.