“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” –Audre Lorde
On Tuesdays we talked much about identity: the expression of it through values (Just a Nine to Five), just showing so much of it (Masking), challenging it (Complacency), finding out what matters most to it (Becoming a Master).
What is it, though, that makes the individual? How do we know when we are hearing our voice? What do those epiphanies look like, smell and feel like? Taste like? What prompts that saliva in the corners of your mouth, when you realize you’re on the cusp of owning yourself—world be damned.
Our individuality—a must, because as social creatures we enjoy complements to ourselves and not clones—manifests itself in many aspects and not all at the same time: how we live, comb our hair, eat, work, raise our kids, relate to our families and partners. It can be artistic, social, cultural. We cultivate it to the point where we hear that drumbeat in everything we do.
And now I fear going too far in this post, because it is not a thing that can be explained—this expression of individuality or voice. How do I relate something that is like falling in love—what else could make us risk so much, make the rest of our
worlds seem so inconsequential?
I don’t intend to create a perfect picture here, a world where the self-possessed walk around with all the answers to life. By “individual” I don’t mean perfect. It has less to do with self-love, less to do with self-acceptance, even less to do with “living an artist’s life”—more to do with respecting your way and making sense of it, but not necessarily in having a set path. Great individuals have found their “calling” or “walked their walk” before they found themselves, god, security, acceptance or love (or acceptance of love). Or they find their voice and never find these other things; that laundry list is not a prerequisite to individuality.
I don’t want to make it sound like a linear process—“you accept yourself, you find your center, you find your voice.” Sometimes we’ll feel it more strongly. Other times we’ll wonder if it’s still there. If you work a nine-to-five as I do, you can’t express your individuality all day. Some conformity is needed to grease the machine. The principle is to keep that thread going. I have a daily grind, but it doesn’t stop me from scribbling writing ideas during the day or jotting a few lines on my lunch hour. Our power is in keeping that bass line going, not losing it. We keep that thread; we keep ourselves.