The day I turned 50 was actually very nice. I didn’t wake up and feel different, at least when I wasn’t dwelling on the “big 5-0”.
A couple of weeks later I was in a gift shop and started trying on goofy hats. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculous picture I made wearing a cow and then a leopard hat. My husband said “quiet down – people are watching you”. And that’s when it hit me. That’s when the huge, momentous, absolutely life-changing magic of turning 50 hit me full in the face. I didn’t care. Yup, people were watching. Probably some of them were amused, and possibly some were annoyed (I wasn’t trying to be a spectacle, but I was laughing uncontrollably and looking pretty foolish). And it just didn’t matter. I was having a blast, totally in the moment and enjoying myself. So why was this such a big deal?
Like many people, I worried about what other people thought. I wanted people to like me. I was often self-conscious on the inside (but trying to look comfortable and composed on the outside). I cared about other people’s opinions, sometimes to the point of not making choices that I wanted. I generally appeared self-confident and self-assured. But not on the inside. I worried about whether I looked “good enough”, what I said, whether I was doing the “right” thing. And I never wanted to look foolish, or “inappropriate”. I wanted people to think well of me. Regardless of what I really wanted. The yellow car was the perfect example.
In my 30’s I fell in love with a sunny, bright yellow car. I debated buying it. I talked to (almost) everyone and got a lot of feedback. Mostly people said something like “You want what? Yellow? Really??”. Sometimes people laughed or just look perplexed. Maybe someone said “go for it”, but if so, I don’t remember. What I do remember is doubting myself, my decision, whether it really was a good idea. I didn’t get the car.
Ok, so buying a car (or not buying it) isn’t the biggest deal in the world. It’s not going to affect you for the rest of your life, right? Well, maybe that’s true for some people. I kept thinking about that yellow car. Every time I saw one, I would feel a pang of wistfulness and regret. I would remind myself that I made the “sensible” decision. That it wasn’t a good idea. And any other justification I could come up with for not following my own heart. This went on for years. I could have purchased a yellow car but something inside me just wouldn’t, couldn’t, stomach going against the grain. I would recall the looks, the reactions, and push the desire away again. I finally just gave up.
So that amazing revelation while tears of laughter were running down my cheeks and I was bent over from laughing so hard, was the start of the journey to truly being myself. I started to do things I hadn’t done (or wouldn’t do) before. I started really doing yoga. Meaning – I stopped looking at other people and hoping I was doing the poses “right”. I began to laugh when I would fall, or land in a heap on the floor. I began to take more chances, and do more silly things. I went to Disney with my family and wore a tiara all day long. (I thought it was really pretty. I totally mortified my teenage daughter). I started my shamanic training, because I didn’t care if it seemed “too weird, too woo-woo” – it fascinated me. I said “yes” to things I loved, and “no” to things that felt too much like an obligation. I changed jobs so I could have more time to do what I love (that was huge!).
And two months ago, I bought a sunny, bright yellow car. I am absolutely, totally, completely in love with my yellow car. I remember what everyone said, eighteen years earlier. It just doesn’t matter. Every time I look at my yellow car, I smile. I smile because it’s so cheery, so sunny, and it makes me happy. But most of all I smile because it was my choice and I listened to myself. I smile because this is my life, and I am living it. Without worrying about someone else’s opinion. Without worrying about my worth as a person.
You don’t have to buy a yellow car to find and honor your true self. It’s probably something entirely different for you. But whatever it is, DO IT. Take the risk. Go on the trip, dance in the rain, wear the tiara. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking – do what you desire and let your heart sing. Laugh out loud, act silly, enjoy each moment of your precious life. Know that you are absolutely perfect just as you are, and celebrate your perfect imperfection! Listen to your inner voice and be true to who you really are. You don’t have to worry about anyone’s opinion – honor your own.