I recently joined a writing group with other women around my age. As most of us were feeling uninspired in the new year, we decided to each pick a theme for the five weeks to try to jumpstart our mojo. I had first pick, and I chose “red”
Growing up, shades of pink and purple were my staples. My bedroom wall was painted bubblegum pink as a child, light purple as a teenager. I boasted hot pink casts for my tibia torsion as a baby. My love of all things Barney, especially the sweater my Nana knit for me, could have been related to the fact that he was a big purple dinosaur. The “princess dresses” my Nana sewed for me often featured at least one shade of pink. I wore my shiny purple dance studio jacket with pride. Those two colors imbued my childhood.
I had never considered what it was that I liked about those colors. They were just always there, so I assumed they were my favorites. It wasn’t a thought really, just a fact. I didn’t realize that we have the option to choose our favorite color. I thought it was just instinct. What color you wore the most. What color your room was painted. Or what color paired well with your skin tone, hair, and eyes, etc. It felt like the color picked you more than you chose it.
Then in high school, a class discussion changed my perspective entirely.
I’m not even sure what class it was, because the teacher who led the discussion wasn’t one of mine. Perhaps he was a substitute teacher or covering study hall, who knows. Mr. Lowe was a religion teacher at my Catholic high school and a popular coach for several of our sports teams. He was considered a “cool” teacher. Funny and charismatic, all the kids looked up to him. I remember that I was jealous that my brother had him as a teacher while I kept getting stuck with duds. (That’s a story for another day!)
After almost 15 years, I don’t recall exactly what Mr. Lowe said but here’s the gist. He started by asking all of us that question I had never before considered. Why is (color) your favorite? I must not have been the only one to not have contemplated this before, as most of the class paused in thought. Mr. Lowe explained that his favorite color was yellow. He related it to a stoplight in some way. Yellow is steady, constant, cautionary. Yellow makes you pause and think before you act. Yellow is the shining light that leads the way. For Mr. Lowe, yellow was a reminder to slow down and enjoy life rather than rushing through.
At that moment, I knew my favorite color had to be red.
Red is commanding, without needing to prove itself. Red takes charge and earns respect from others. People are drawn to red as it exudes power and resilience. Comparing it to Mr. Lowe’s stoplight theory, when red says stop, people (mostly) listen.
Red is bold and unafraid.
I have struggled with self-doubt and self-loathing for as long as I can remember. There isn’t one memory in this overfilled brain of mine where I was confident in who I was. I never felt good enough or that I fit in. I still don’t. Bold and unafraid are two things I know I can be, but have always been too afraid and filled with fear to pursue.
Red speaks for me in ways I have not found the courage to.
Throughout my life, I’ve hidden my true feelings. I’ve deferred to the opinions and traditions of others. For most of my life, I did what I thought I should because others thought it was best. I never stood up for myself. I didn’t share my opinions when they differed from others for fear of starting conflict.
Red draws attention to itself without worrying about what others think.
A fear of being judged has held me back my entire life. I have been entirely too concerned with what people might say or think. I have allowed this to dictate my life, from my job to my clothes to exploring my creativity. Even writing this blog makes me feel like an imposter. Sharing it with friends and family only adds to that anxious feeling.
Red is who I want to be. Who I am still working on becoming. Red is my future, if I am willing to take the risk.
Check out my other Personal Essays.
From one Wordo to another, thanks for tuning in! See you next time!
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