Living in Color is part of a series of short essays written for my Creative Writing final senior year of college. There were 4 or 5 essays in total, and all were required to be autobiographical. This particular essay was the last in said series. It was edited slightly, but aside from one or two word changes it remains in its original format.
On February 4, I turn 22. For most it’s just another birthday, but for me it marks a year of celebration. Today I look in the mirror and see the smile once worn by a child who believed in happily ever afters. I hear the laughter of that cheerful girl who never met a stranger. Today I believe there is freedom from the hate and fear that try to own us, and I believe in more than one second chance; that there’s a light at the end of every dark tunnel if we just keep walking, and that one act of compassion can save a life.
Through my own experiences and through listening to and watching the lives of others, I’ve discovered two constants: love and the weight of sadness. They resonate through every song, every story, and every pair of eyes to ever walk this beautiful but broken world.
Somewhere I heard there is a tension between the things that bring us up and tear us down, and in the tension, love,and dreams, and joy can be illuminating. If anything, I live to remind people that love is real, and that it is made both for them and in them. Not just romantically (that is only one facet) but through the compassion and relationships of friends, family members, mentors, coworkers, classmates, and even strangers.
People often see me with words scrawled across my arms. I wear my heart on my sleeves in a very literal sense. It seems odd and overzealous, and yet there is some wisdom to my eccentric nature.
A wise friend once wrote, “We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”
Even though all our stories are unique, we all know what pain feels like, no matter how it presents itself. I am not the only one that hurts. There isn’t a single person on this Earth who is perfectly fine, but we’re good at pretending. So many people hide behind masks and lies in hopes to appear strong because we’re afraid to talk about the things that hurt us.
Two years ago, I swore to myself that I would never fake this life. I want to be real and honest not only with the people around me, but with myself as well. To some I seem a little exotic with my bold makeup and bright colors. Yet color reminds me of life and hope and optimism. It isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Color can paint everything from pain and sorrow to contentment and bliss. It’s vibrant and feeling where darkness is not.
Darkness is paralyzing, muted, the absence of color. I find life without love to be the same: absent, empty and eventually unfeeling.
So I continue to fight against it. I won’t let my failures keep me from trying because in my reflection I see something good. I see progress, and moving forward. I see fears being overcome. I see growth as a person. I see love. Joy. I see who I want to be, and who I can be.
And through triumph and failure, I see it’s worth it.