“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” — E.E. Cummings
I knew at age three that I wanted to be on stage in dance recitals, wearing shiny tap shoes just like my older sister Lisa. I wasn’t timid or apprehensive as a kid. In fact, I was dubbed “the informer” at the innocent age of four by my family. My mom loves to tell stories of how she needed to meticulously hide every birthday present in the most obscure places. She knew her shameless informer would go hunting for them and spill the details to her siblings without a second thought.
Favorite pastimes as a child included lip syncing and dancing to Blondie and The Cover Girls in front of our giant VHS camcorder. Also being sure my voice was heard. I was quoted in the Providence Journal at 11 years old for defending New Kids On The Block from haters. I suppose a little humility was lost on me.
As the inevitability of growing older unfolded, the opinions of others and the world’s false perceptions began to cloud my natural ability to not care what others thought of me. I had one foot in the bucket of clarity and the understanding of who I was as an individual — an optimist at heart, a communicator, a day dreamer. The other foot lay planted too firmly in the ideologies that swirl among us as we navigate into adulthood and the gross misconceptions that we dream up in our minds.
Don’t appear to be too outspoken or ambitious. You might be perceived as conceited or full of yourself.
Don’t come across too smart — you will be labeled nerdy.
And please do not, under any circumstances, color outside the lines and follow those dreams you hold so dear. Life doesn’t work that way. You have to stay in the box and play by the rules.
I played small for a long time. I started to believe that life was linear and lacked fluidity. That being myself was risky. The extrovert in me was riding in the passenger seat while the introvert took the wheel. To paint a picture of what that looks like is a bit of a travesty. Speaking up became an intimidation. For years, I was not living a shameless life.
I suppose that is the truth behind being shameless in our lives. It’s about standing, jumping, running towards the truth that is you, and never giving a second thought to those that are mocking you along the way.
There is no pivotal moment of truth or clarity that suddenly came to me. I cannot pinpoint one particular scenario that shifted my thinking and urged me to start to live more shameless, to live like I meant it. It may have been the accumulation of all those decisions that weren’t suited for me that made me finally reach a breaking point. Maybe it creeped up with age. Either way, I am still very much a work in progress, but I have learned that we must live shamelessly with all of our might — it’s essential to our happiness. Not the happiness that is attached to outcomes, but the real, raw kind of happiness that feels natural and effortless.
I take conscious steps towards a future that spells out what I want in life.
I set boundaries.
I do not apologize for being the eternal optimist.
I write the truth.
I try to stop myself from caring what others think.
I say no when I want to.
I say yes when I want to.
I recognize failure and admit to mistakes.
I keep my circle small and never apologize for spending time by myself.
I eat ice cream out of the carton (such a rebel) and blast the music with the windows rolled down.
I swear like a trucker.
I embrace my contradictions.
I remind myself to take more risks when I start feeling too comfortable.
I don’t follow trends because social media or a magazine said so.
One of my favorite quotes in this world is from the poet Rumi: “Your heart knows the way, run in that direction.” It’s simple but profound. I have it written down on a piece of paper and leave it by my bed as a reminder that to be brave and to live shamelessly. We have to unlearn those things that hold us back. I suppose living shamelessly is simply being ourselves.
Most days I think of myself as that kid that would dance like nobody’s watching. I know she would say, “You got this. Run like hell towards all of it.”