Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Self-Guided Tour of Me

First, I have to give a shout out to the amazing singer and songwriter, T.K. Rose. The title of this posting is borrowed from the lyrics to one of her songs. Thanks.

Now about that self-guided tour...

I have swallowed some of myself since being in China. Already different, isolated and often lonely, I became afraid that some of the more flamboyant aspects of my personality would serve to widen the gulf. So I strove to be neutral, to be "all things to all men". And it has had its positives. There is nothing wrong with being neutral, adaptable, even pliable, once you can do it while staying true to who you are. I've learned things about myself in these past few months, and the things I've learned will stay with me. I've strengthened and improved some of the "bad", as well as the "good" aspects of who I am. Oh, I have a long way to go, but I am trying to be thankful for the process.

And this process brings me to the place where I am now. I was rethinking my current mindset, and some friends affirmed what I was already thinking. I needed to relocate some of the less neutral aspects of myself. I am not yet the proud owner of thick skin, but I do have a tenacious tongue.
I discovered early on the power of words. We all know that some of our deepest and most lasting wounds came from words, and not sticks and stones. I learned to use words like the girls of my youth used razors. Held in the mouth they cause no pain, but in the blink of an eye the gleam of metal draws blood. And when I read in the Bible that life and death are in the power of the tongue, I understood immediately. For the most part, I no longer aim to draw blood, and my tongue is being tempered and refined with age and wisdom, but nevertheless the skill is not lost.

And so who is this docile woman standing before me? Who is this person, who does her hair and picks her clothing increasingly aware of the voices of a few tormentors? Who is she, this woman allowing people to stomp on her self-esteem unabated? Who is this person that will not say the answer in class, although it is correct, because of the veiled comments of others, obviously struggling in their own self-esteem? Have I regressed? On the street with pushy, obnoxious, rude, straightforward Chinese people, my skin has begun to thicken and I retain much of my sass. It was touch and go for a few weeks, but I pulled it together. And yet, amongst my "community" - my classmates, peers, country-mates and acquaintances, I found myself retreating daily. Afraid to be beautiful, intelligent, strong, fierce, outspoken - unashamed. I woke up the other morning, and images began to flash through my mind.
A little girl with an accent afraid to speak.
A butterscotch colored girl wanting desperately to be the color of milk chocolate.
A smart girl acting dumb so she wouldn't stand out.
A broken teenager scarred from attempts to end the pain.
A lonely teenager compromising her very life for her "friends".
A beautiful teenager hiding and disguising herself as much as possible.
A struggling woman who would look in the mirror and cry before leaving the house.
A healing woman fighting through voices, words, years, tears and fears to find the pieces of her broken self and rebuild.
A loving woman able to give, accept, and even demand love and respect.

And the images, instead of being a burden, were like a gentle breeze, just enough to remind me in a whisper of who I am. I am every strand of my corkscrew curly hair, every point of my IQ, and every inch of my curves. I am very intonation of my voice, every drop of ancestry in my blood, and every letter of my name. I am every dime of my college education, every nucleotide of my DNA and every page of my passport. I have worked too hard to finally be able to embrace everything that I am just to give it up.

I am loving me right now. I am loving my hair, my face, my mind, my talents, my gifts, my body, my heart, my desires, my shortcomings, my failures, my being. I am enjoying my self-guided tour of me, 'cause I am an excellent tour guide and a tourist with a thirst for knowledge. And so, when I shake my hair, put on my clothes and step outside of my door, the people who make earnest attempts to break me down just might run in to something that has returned from a wonderful vacation, rested and ready to go - my mouth. My skin might be a little thicker but my tongue is even quicker!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

is this yours?