I got caught singing in my car today.
I was in full-on concert mode; not pretending to be Adele, but pretending that her song was my song and I was on stage fully bringing it to my adoring audience. The crowd was vast, waving their iphones with the candle-app; I think I was even doing the closed-eye thing singers do when they are really feeling the groove.
Just as I hit the chorus, I got completely snagged. I was doing a little hand motion thing, fist clenched with passionate intensity, when I felt eyes on me. Not the eyes of my adoring imaginary audience, but real eyes from the car speeding up next to mine. My heart beat out of my chest. I had that horribly mortified feeling like I just stepped out of the shower and dropped my towel accidentally in front of a crowd.
As I was cruising along in my little tin can on the highway, I forgot, in that private moment, that I was, in fact, out in public.
We all do things we wouldn’t do if we knew someone else was watching. We all do things in front of some people that we might not do in front of others. In so many instances, we put away pieces of ourselves for others. We have our “at home” self and our “in public” self. We are careful about what we say. We rein ourselves in. As we were taught as kids, we demonstrate self-control. We diligently protect ourselves. We carefully protect others from ourselves.
I don’t mean to imply that not putting oneself completely out there is bad. The world would be pretty nuts if we all just said and did exactly what we were thinking all of the time; I mean, there’s something to be said for a little bit of decorum! But as we tuck pieces of ourselves away, out of fear or shame or insecurity, we risk losing what is most wonderful about each of us.
So where is the line? When does putting away who we are when no one is looking to be who we are in front of others become a compromise of our own integrity? How far do we let the fear of not being accepted take us?
Teenagers are in the thick of this. I see it every day as I witness their wade through the deep waters of figuring themselves out. While they are rolling in the deep, the older I get the more I feel like I just take the occasional plunge. I thought for sure I would wake up one magical day and not care one bit what anyone else thought of me. Do I dare admit that I sometimes care? And if I admit that I care, do I somehow compromise my own character?
With each day I grow more comfortable with the fact that I do care, that I do censor myself to a degree. Each day I grow more at ease with admitting that rather than trying to hide yet another piece of myself by pretending that I don’t. For me, that’s as authentic as I can be right now.
There are people in this crazy world with whom I don’t have to put any pieces of myself away. With each day, I realize the incredible value of spending my time with those people.
And so there I was, wanting to just speed away from whoever was in the next lane over without ever looking at them. Just as I was about to accelerate away from the embarrassing confrontation, something in the air made me duct-tape the mouth of my innerjudge. I faced my fear, and there in the next lane, in the car with all of the eyes, was my dear friend B with her husband and their three kids; all of whom I love. They were all frantically waving and laughing and giddy at seeing me in concert.
I laughed and waved back, still singing.