I say I wanna settle down
Build your hopes up like a tower
I’m giving you the run around
I’m just a lost boy
Not ready to be found.
When I was younger, Everyone always asks, “Is your sister older…?” It doesn’t matter if we are standing next to each other, within each other’s vicinity, or they just know she exists. Whether our maturity levels are uneven or I have some serious baby face is still TBD. More or less, this fueled my desire for independence; it made me crave adulthood. I would purposefully walk away from our mom when she took us to the mall and go to different stores to prove that I was old enough to “shop on my own.”
I was often grounded.
Being the eldest child – and a girl, mind you – made it difficult for my parents to let go. At the time, I didn’t understand. I was beyond eager to grow up. And because it was vehemently forbidden, I obviously wore too much makeup, too soon; wore less, because more skin means ‘sexy’; started swearing and snuck into Victoria’s Secret whenever I had the chance. I wanted so desperately to be taken ‘seriously’ – whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. So when I turned 18 and was selecting colleges, I moved across the country to New York City. (The partial scholarship money helped.) But this need I convinced myself of was more difficult to obtain than anticipated. I wanted to be heard, but I am often too shy in the presence of the unknown. I am too indecisive to make decisions on my own. I refuse to stand in the spotlight, if given the choice. I wanted to be heard, but not seen. Seems I’ve found myself in quite the predicament.
Oh, and she’s my younger sister by the way.
And so the inevitable growing up saga continues.
Among every Disney movie every created, my two all-time favorites remain unchanged: The Little Mermaid & Peter Pan. (Both have mermaids, so I will assume you’re not too surprised.) As I’ve gotten older and – dear God, hopefully – matured, it’s gotten easier to understand why these two stories resonate so strongly with me. The big question, however: did they influence who I became, or did they help nurture who I always was?
Did they write my story; or rather, help me learn how to tell it?
When you think about it, so many quirks are quickly explained: my forever lust of long, lush (and natural) red hair. My obsession with glitter aka pixie dust. That love is always worth sacrificing for. That past, idiotic attraction for confident boys, no matter how immature they were. Being a sort of hoarder (because fascination and curiosity should be encouraged). A need to be taken seriously at 16. My constant inner conflict: to grow up – or to never grow up?
So how does one be heard, without being seen?
In 2010, my Bubs and I found ourselves in line at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue at 6AM (and mind you, we were coming from the Bronx), waiting anxiously to meet the infamous bad gal, RiRi. Still (pretending to be) rebellious and edgy, I had plans to put
pink streaks all over one or two hot pink streaks in my hair.
Then I met her. My independent and fierce idol, with her ‘give no fucks and take no shit from anyone’ attitude. Truly the most beautiful person I have ever been in the presence of.
At the time, Rihanna had just released ‘Loud’ – her third and best album, in my not so humble you-should-agree-with-me opinion – and her hair was as bright red as Ariel’s. I was even more in love than I was sitting on the sidewalk at 6AM. I went home, emerged Rihanna Red, and never looked back. This hair gave me the opportunity to be heard, in the most loud yet subtle way I needed it to be.
* * *
When college was coming to an end, everyone started to wonder (and worry), what was going to happen when I went on interviews for internships? Would people hire me for my skills, or would I be turned away at first sight? Might be helpful to point out that by now, I also had three tattoos; with my most recent ink on my middle finger. (A Deathly Hallows symbol, so everyone can relax.) By now, I had adopted a new attitude: fake it ’til you make it. Fake your confidence, fake your positivity, fake your give no fucks attitude – because if you think it long enough, you’ll start to believe it; you’ll start to live it.
After several failed interviews, I woke up one morning in January 2012 with the flu. It was also the morning of my second and in-person interview at BuzzBack Market Research. Still, I wrapped my crimson locks in a professional bun and dragged my sickly ass down to Midtown. Fast forward.
After several months of interning at BB, it was revealed that my hair did cause some slight …interest. I wasn’t disqualified as a candidate because of it, but I wasn’t immediately considered either. (My lack of knowledge about research in general…and failing the Excel ‘test’ probably didn’t help.) It was because of my demeanor, and my handwritten thank you letters to everyone who interviewed me, that they offered me the internship.
From then on, I knew that my self-mantras were tried and true: being kind and being yourself will get you where you were meant to be; and that faking confidence totally works until you actually achieve it.
* * *
I recently changed companies. Once again, I caught the adult bug again where I wanted to be taken seriously and prove that I could produce great work in a ‘bigger and better’ environment.
This past year has been an awfully long learning process in terms of #adulthood – one that has taught me that no matter how kind you are, first impressions still make even the smallest of impacts.
I spent the past few months wondering if perhaps the loud hair was causing too much unnecessary noise; vacillating if ‘being normal’ would help me fit in. “This weekend,” I would say, after every hard week. It soon came with a caveat, “Don’t believe me until it happens. I always chicken out.” I couldn’t do it because it felt like the decision- a decision which is mine to make – didn’t come from xt, from any perspective.
* * *
It was then that I realized that I was being seen, but not really being heard. So after six years of being the redhead I always knew I was supposed to be – even if just for awhile – I said goodbye.
And for the first time EVER in my life, it felt right: a decision made by a lost girl no longer needed to be found.
A quick, personal thank you to everyone who accepted my inner Ariel. To my siblings, for telling me I was the cool older sister. To my parents, who were still proud to show me off. To Hils, for going through this hairy life with me & going Gaga to my RiRi. To BuzzBack, for giving me my career foundation; and to Landor, for continuing it. To my friends and their families, for not judging me by the color of my locks. To Joe, for still wanting to go on that second date. But most of all, to Bubba – for teaching me that you don’t get anywhere in life without taking risks to learn who you really are. It’s been a great run ❤️🖤 ONWARD to bigger & better beginnings.
Don’t worry. I left a red streak in for good luck 😉