I remember the moment when I washed off the perfectionist make up, for good. Eye liner of attitude, the lipstick that lacked appreciation, the rouge of rigidness, the concealer of conceit, the mascara of materialism, and the foundation of flawlessness… artfully dabbed across the cheekbone, disguising a false image, and in no means a tasteful one at that.
I remember when I stopped living a counterfeit life behind layers of applied ignorance.
It was on a freshly blossomed April day. I sat at an outside cafe, just a block from the blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was an animated summer weekend day when people are in their ‘comfy’ clothes, less hectic in their movements. Around me were lanky palm trees gently sweeping the velvet breeze. Fragrance filled the air from the blooming foliage, scented lushness that grows with ease in the paradise climate of Southern California.
I had, just days earlier, abandoned my impeccably imaged life and my well-paying job in the heart of urban Texas… in the proverbial Southern Bible Belt (which, by the way, is not the ideal place for a principled, forthright, and potent New England girl to take up residency, but I digress). I put my Corolla on a flat bed trailer behind a rented truck which, alas, managed to hold all of my earthly possessions. I closed the not-exactly-fat bank account, bid farewell to dear friends, and moved my piffling universe to a quaint village called Carlsbad, located on the northern crest of San Diego County along the jam-packed Highway 5 that stretches the Pacific coastline.
Carlsbad is one of several popular sea-side destinations where sun-lovers and surf-devotees dwell. I joined a colorful cross-section of Californians, natives and wanna bes… retired gray-haired couples who walk unhurried and hold hands with time… forty and fifty somethings desperately gripping their youthful appeal… real-life caricatures of surfer dudes and their bronze-skin bikini-clad companions… aging image mongers inside their luxury cars and their paradox lives… and the imprecise thirty somethings who, despite their professional pursuits and personal endeavors, want really to test life’s boundaries, grasp the meaning of it all, and live outside the obvious and the predictable.
I recall those sweet-tasting days clad in khaki shorts, t-shirt, sandals, an anklet and little else, absorbing the ocean’s ambiance and sun’s rays, and watching the world meander through my view, seemingly for the first time. It was a pinnacle moment of enlightenment, when I had realized deep within my soul that I needed to remove the façade, face my fears, and get off of the high achiever express elevator, on which little of true substance and meaning existed.
I had to quit impersonating a joyous, fulfilled version of myself.
It took many years to both understand and embrace the verity of my life… that my journey was meant to move to the sounds of the opus in my heart. No matter how reckless, I have to propel myself into the experience of life with passions spilled like wine and emotions thrust forward into fifth gear like a clutch in the grip of a teenager. My jaunt through time was not meant to be on a path of sensible thinking, reliable actions, and rational behaviors. I was meant to live imperfectly- flawed and fragile, daunted and damaged.
On that California coast and in that moment, I redefined my life. As I took up residency in that village by the sea, my true self blossomed. Imprudent, unsettled, overly sensitive, blemished, dogmatic, tarnished, and wounded. But most of all, real.
The mystery of life beckoned me to search. I would have to venture to remote places in my memory and reach far into a sketchy blueprint of the future, to figure out what that day, and all days after, were created for.