Does anyone else think about brains a lot?
How amazing they are. How they get to choose what moments we retain in our minds. How they can make us forget why we walked into a room five seconds ago, but can help us remember every word of our favorite song in high school. What an incredible machine it is.
Since I’ve become a Mom, I’ve been tapping into the childhood memories that my brain decided to retain. I’ll sit and watch my daughter playing solo in her favorite toy corner, and suddenly I can remember the spot that I LOVED as a four-year-old behind my living room couch where I used to gather all of my toys and play make believe for hours.
But the not-so-awesome memories show themselves too. Those moments where you felt the confusion of figuring out how to navigate life, friendships and social situations as a kid. And sometimes I wonder why my brain doesn’t choose to forget those, and instead choose to remind me why the hell I just walked into this room five seconds ago.
One of those memories carved its way through the weeds of chaos in my mind and showed itself recently.
I was five.
It was “color week” in Kindergarten and we were highlighting a different color every day. I was revved up for blue day because I had a new blue outfit that had a butterfly on it. I LOVED it. I felt pretty. I felt confident. I wanted everyone to see it.
That morning, I floated on those blue butterfly wings down the hall to that classroom, fidgeting with my fingers the way I did (and still do) when I am excited about something. I felt tall. I felt happy. I felt amazing. I turned that corner into my classroom with purpose, baby… ready for everyone to see the awesomeness that was my blue-day style.
I took a half of a step into that room… and I saw it.
The sea of red.
Red shirts. Red pants. Red bows. Red socks.
I was completely mortified. All eyes were on me as my teacher stated the obvious that it was not, in fact, blue day as my outfit suggested I thought it was.
I suddenly hated that butterfly and wanted to crawl back into my cocoon and hide.
Strangely, I don’t remember what the rest of that day was like for me. But that turn-the-corner moment? I can smell the chalkboard, I can see my teacher’s glasses, and I remember how tall I was because I remember seeing the distance from my face to the carpet as I hung my head in embarrassment and watched my self confidence melt into the floorboards. Was it traumatic? I wouldn’t go that far. But impactful on a five year old? Sure was.
I have always looked at that memory as just that… a memory. It was just one of those moments that stuck out… those moments that make our insides turn, our hearts beat a little faster and our emotions go into overdrive. Maybe that’s the brain’s criteria for adding it to the archives.
But these kinds of little events in our life aren’t just memories. They are path-changers. They affect us. They nestle themselves into our memory bank and we withdrawal them in situations that feel the same later in life so we can do everything we can to avoid it happening again.
And suddenly I wondered…
HOW MANY TIMES have I showed up in this world wearing red because the world was asking for red… even when I wanted to be in blue…. all because of what happened to me that day?
Like the time I chose to wear a dress to dinner because I knew all my friends would be in dresses, even if I felt more beautiful and confident in jeans. Or all of the times I’ve assessed a social situation and became a chameleon to “be” whoever I needed to be in order to be accepted. Or the times in a board room when I had a different perspective than what was being put on the table, but I didn’t want to run the risk of being being mortified if it wasn’t accepted. Or the numerous non-industry-standard ideas for my business that I never let breathe because I don’t want to be exposed for being so different… especially if it went wrong.
Sure sounds like that little girl begging me to not have that Kindergarten doorway experience again.
But you know what? There’s a reason my brain also chose to remember the sights, sounds and feelings I had skipping down that hall in excitement too. It fit the criteria. My insides were turning, my heart was beating faster and my emotions were on overdrive. Just for a different reason.
And sometimes my brain alerts me when I’m in an opportunity to feel THAT way again…
Because there are days that I go completely rogue and pull up to the party in blue… without giving a DAMN that the invitation said it was a red affair.
And the results? Some of my most pivotal moments in my life.
Like that time I went for a highly-sought-after internship in college with my blue on, while everyone else took the red approach. I got the internship.
Or when I went into a career fair with a room full of candidates with job-appropriate degrees and internships … and I had zero experience in the field but brought a whole lot of blue to the table. I landed my dream gig.
Or when I went into a photography industry that I knew nothing about … wore red for a while to try to fit in… and got nowhere. But when I put on my authentic blue? I was happier. My work was better. I enjoyed it more. The success came.
Or when I finally chose to ditch the red shirt in false friendships, and only surround myself with people who liked me better when I was in blue. I have more meaningful relationships in my life now.
There are times I think about that moment in kindergarten and wish that I could go back and tell that little girl to OWN that blue butterfly outfit. To wear her difference proudly. To not be ashamed. To KEEP SKIPPING despite what she saw in that room. To feel everything that is awesome about standing out against the crowd.
But you know what… I CAN still tell her.
Because that little girl is right here. And I know better now.
I know that wearing blue butterflies in a sea of red is where AMAZING happens. It’s where my true character can breathe. It’s where I take steps forward. It’s where the course changes. And most importantly… it’s where happiness exists.
So when I find myself in a situation where going against the norm feels more authentic… but I start to feel that same anxiety my little five year old body felt that day… I will stop.
And I will remind her of all of the reasons she is awesome. All of the reasons that her difference makes her wonderful. All of the reasons that the world needs to see her in blue.
And I’ll wear it with pride, baby… And finally let that little girl who skipped down the hall have her moment to shine.
Photos by Ashley Sasak Photography