Here’s the story…
I was standing in line at the pharmacist one afternoon when a young girl in front of me turn back and stared at me. She smiled and when I saw her I smiled too. She said, “I love your hair” which was a real compliment since I had done nothing in particular with it that day. Then, she went on, with confidence, “How old are you?” When I told her my age, she giggled, embarrassed, “There’s no reason to feel embarrassed” I said, “The older you are, the better it is to look a little younger”.
As the line kept moving forward, she spoke again, “How does it feel to be an adult?”, she said, “It feels great!”, lastly, she got the courage to ask, maybe the most pressing and important question, “What’s the secret?” My mind began to shuffle quickly searching for the big secrets of adulthood, there was not much time left, she would be the next to be called by the cashier. I had to hone in on at least one secret, one thing that could unlock a bit of happiness, a bit of hope, a bit of encouragement, all in a few words. So, I told her, “Live each season as it comes. Don’t try to rush thing. Time goes by too fast.”
This conversation, this connection happened because that young girl saw in me a person whom she could talk to, someone she could approach, open and welcoming. The ordinary waiting in line turned into the extraordinary opportunity to share a lesson I’ve learned, shed a light on her adolescent heart.
Back it up…
When I was a little girl I couldn’t care less about connecting with strangers. “This nice lady is saying Hello!, you should say hello back!” my self-conscious parents would say, embarrassed for my lack of manners, clearly a reflection of the kind of education they were providing.
As a tween, the socialization problems continued. I refused to open up to people who were not within my inner circle and looked at everybody else with mistrust. I reveled in my solitude and space. Adolescence made the internal struggle between shutting people off and letting people in an everyday battle. Breaking down walls meant showing vulnerability, weakness, imperfections. The very things an adolescent believes (wrongly) he/she cannot do. Thankfully, the season when the growing pains seem to hurt the hardest also goes by.
As I reached adulthood and began to define my signature style, I realized there was one goal I wished to convey with the way I dressed and the way I looked out at the world around me. I wanted to be approachable.
Maybe because I remembered the intense mistrust I had toward strangers, the intimidation I felt around those who acted arrogantly and looked stiff. They seemed to be distancing themselves from the ordinary every day, from casual conversation. They seemed to want to put themselves up on a pedestal of prestige, to showcase their intelligence, their success. Maybe that works for some. Maybe that is what you want, and that’s fine too.
I rather have extraordinary moments when children, young adults, people of all ages, feel it’s Okay to approach me. I want to give back a small sense security and human connection, which I refused to give for so long. Now I see how significant it can be.
So, why be approachable?
- I do believe my own approachable confidence gave her the confidence to speak up.
- I do believe that as creatives we cannot close ourselves off from people, or put ourselves (egos) so high above them, they can’t reach us.
- I do believe the clothes we choose to wear and the style we embrace and represents us send out vibes that we must be aware of.
My style lets people know they can get closer, ask a question, start a conversation, simply say hello without feeling intimidated by me.
Because I was once in their shoes.
Peek at this #SaturdayCreativeConfession on Twitter.