Mask and costume trying too hard

As we begin NaNoWriMo, I thought it might be interesting to talk about themes in writing. As a writer, I need to talk about social issues. In my changeling work-in-progress, that means talking about difference and self acceptance.

It used to be, that when I walked down State Street in Santa Barbara, I felt like I was on a movie set. The people in Santa Barbara are generally beautiful and fashionable. It can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. However, this time I saw something else when I looked at the people going down the street. I saw people trying to prove something rather than enjoying themselves. It felt like I was watching people in costumes – yet it wasn’t Halloween. It was like watching the same kind of posturing that happens online when someone tries to prove they belong to a certain identity. In real life, the clothes and styles were contrived attempts at conformity.

I could almost hear their thoughts, “I must look the part.”

There’s such fear around being labelled “false” – not being enough. What if they discover that I’m not so X or Y? What if someone discovers that I’m not what I claim? What if people decide I’m not what I claim?

That’s part of the problem. There such fear of being rejected or being tried in the court of public opinion. There is shame and humiliation. There is rejection by the group. How can a person love themselves when they’re constantly putting on a show? How do they know who they are? How can they really be one way or the other if they’re always trying to prove something?

This posturing is born out of fear. Unfortunately, fear does not promote sustained growth, rather it encourages an environment of despair and destruction. Fear leads to rash decisions and lashing out. It leads to ignoring where the real work needs to happen – discovering and embracing the true self.

I’ve decided that my own appearance and image should be less about identification and more about expression. I’m less interested in the process of belonging to categories then I am embracing my true self. I will be who I will be – without apology or art. I will wear what I like, when I like, because it reflects me. Yes, others will decide I do or don’t belong to different groups. And that is their choice. But it doesn’t matter to me, because I can’t control that. I can’t worry about it.

This process of acceptance and understanding is central to my beloved Rowan Gray – the protagonist of my WIP. This discovery and movement from attempting to fit a category to embracing his chaotic and undefinable self will be a wild ride, as it is with every person. It’s been a joy to edit the story, and I can’t wait for it’s continued revelation. How long will he try to belong? How will it be when it’s clear he can’t? Will he learn to love himself? Or will he sink into hopeless despair?

It’s a choice we all have to make. I’m still not sure what his will be.

The Costumes We Wear
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