They told me I was too loud so I turned the volume down until you could hardly hear me. They told me I cried too much so I buried all my tears and then everything. They told me I was too boisterous and unruly so I became pale and small to suit them. I built a wall of armor with my muscles and hid myself inside. By college I was a pretty shut down, angst ridden, introverted and shy being. Last night I attended part of a celebration of a collective that ran a coffeehouse when I was at school; in this case a concert by a band I adored for years.* Found myself remembering the old me.
It was an interesting opportunity to watch the new, calmer, saner more serene me meet that older version. Many years after college I made the switch I’d long desired from using my first name to using my middle name so I had some people calling me the name I wore then, adding to the sense of two worlds meeting. All through the evening I felt flutters go through of the shy girl who would have loved to be more a part of the coffeehouse group but couldn’t step up to say so and a bit of the old angst would peek in. Then I chanted the lovingkindness chant to myself and became the current me again.
I like those moments that shine a light on the past and let me see how far I’ve come. I may not have the outward signs of success that Americans usually expect but I can see a trajectory of growth and transformation that makes me proud of the path I’ve taken, the things I’ve tried, the beautiful friends I’ve made wherever I’ve gone and I’m glad to be me now. Plus I got to see a great concert.
* The Amazingrace Coffeehouse began at Northwestern in 1971 and grew to be a venue for national acts that eventually moved off campus. Redwood Landing played many of their earliest gigs there before becoming a Chicago favorite and playing clubs all over town.