Before middle school began my neighborhood best friend (who was a year ahead of me) offered her depth of insight and wisdom. Having already survived the introduction year to what was then junior high,
she explained that if I wanted to have any friends and any hope of being popular I had to wear tight, short skirts. I literally had nothing that was even close to fitting this description, but hopped on the metro and headed to the mall to buy myself a pale pink skirt that was about 60% stretch and hoped for the best.
On the first day of school I was conflicted because I didn’t feel comfortable in the tight skirt and knew it wasn’t really me. Just in case my best buddy was in fact mistaken about the 7th grade cool girl uniform, I donned black Umbros underneath the skirt. Arriving at school, we were all ushered into the auditorium for our first assembly welcoming us to junior high. Nervously glancing around, I found people who smiled, seemed kind, and looked like they would be good friends to have. Lo and behold, guess what they were wearing? Umbros. So I dismissed myself to the bathroom and shed a layer and waltzed right back in to meet my new friends.
Sometimes all it takes to feel yourself again is to shed the layer someone else told you to be.
I have been having a really hard time lately. I tell you that because in general we only share about hard seasons once they have passed and “worked out” and I am still very much still in the uncomfortableness of this difficult season. One of the reasons that it has been so jarring is that I find myself alarmed to be in this very same place once again where I have shown up for life in a pale pink tight short skirt only to find that it doesn’t feel right. There are a bajillion self-help books that will tell me exactly what I need to do to ensure I live my best life now (something Jesus never talked about ever FYI) and even more products that promise to uncover your true self if you give them X many weeks and Y many dollars. But I find it slightly embarrassing how elementary it is to return to this lesson of 7th grade that maybe I just need to take off the layer I’ve gone out and bought into just because someone else told me it is who I should be.
I have the Umbros on already. Who I am and have been created to be is right there; I do not have to go out and find it. But it has been buried under other people’s hopes for my life, needs for my life, and expectations on how I might serve and enrich their lives. While the Umbros remain hidden, I find great comfort that even though I may be headed into a bit of a midlife crisis, who I am and what I am meant to do in life is not lost. So what do I do now, after years of trying to please the people around me and blend/fit in? I think it is time to excuse myself to head to the bathroom and shed the layer. Keeping the extra layer on is only maintaining a life I was never meant to live. It is keeping people happy and carrying on but to what end if who I am and what I was meant to add to the world is left buried and missing from the whole?
We are in this together. My hope is that by sharing my lessons of yore and applying them to the poop storm of today you will feel the freedom either to excuse yourself to remove an oppressive layer holding you back or that you will have the courage to speak truth into a friend’s life who is drowning under the weight of the layers she has pulled on over her Umbros. Be the friend smiling at someone and seeing who they really are so that they have the courage to know that who they really are at their core beneath the layers is beautiful, necessary, and needed.