One year ago, to nearly this moment I was asked to dance at contra dance by someone new, while wearing a bright red, twirly dress. I shared my name, and he bashfully, admitted he had been hoping to dance with me, the girl he’d been referring to as “The Lady in Red.” I don’t completely remember, but I’m sure I looked around, immediately uncomfortable in my rare bright colors that I didn’t think anyone would really notice amongst all of the sparkly, floral and vibrantly dressed people. Feeling awkward, but also, flattered, that I had managed to stand out.
I picked out the red dress, that ordinarily terrified me slightly from the corner of my closet, and decided that I would start the year spinning and in Red, a color associated with confidence. During my own end of year reflections and goal setting, I had thought, perhaps, this next year would be a year of boldness.
“Okay,” I responded after a moment of nervous giggling, “Tonight, I am the lady in red.” He ended up being one of a few that evening who named me “The Lady in Red,” validating the idea that 2017 would be the year of Red.
I had a set idea about what it would mean to embody the LIR (lady in red). I imagined her, well me, a confident, highly accomplished, go-getter, entirely un-afraid of the unknown, clothed in red lipstick and quick wit. I imagined my year ahead filled with wild trips, fast friends, clubbing in foreign countries, all-nighters, and camping in cars. I saw myself making impressive singing videos and publishing full length writing. I saw new piercings and tattoos and dyed hair and the horror on my parents faces that come with new piercings and tattoos and dyed hair. I saw myself shocking the world with this bolder version of myself. In essence, I imagined myself completely remodeled.
Staring into the celebratory bubbles of my ginger beer, from the comfort of my couch, I can’t help but think I may have failed the year of Red. It is easy to look at all of my nights spent in, the planes not taken and the red dresses sent to Goodwill and feel a little lame. Isn’t The LIR supposed to be out in sparkling attire, being the life of some party and standing out nameless, amongst crowds of celebratory people? Shouldn’t I have accomplished something remarkable or been more badass this past year? Shouldn’t I be out celebrating a year full of ruby red confidence? If the year has taught me anything at all, it’s that the answer to those questions is, No. And while the answer is no, I recognize that it has still been the boldest year of my life with perhaps the fewest traditional adventures. The LIR, in all her wisdom, snuck into my skin without me even noticing as I lived boldly, felt boldly, and looked bold. Here is what I mean.
LIVING THE RED
The other day, I had someone ask me what my plans were for my weekend, to which I responded with, “Probably relaxing at home. Maybe crafting a bit. Nothing too wild.” They responded with rolling eyes, “Oh yeah, because you have no fun!” This is not an uncommon occurrence and it is these types of interactions that make me question my worthiness of the LIR title. I think about what is different now from previous times in my life, during which I had lots of weekend plans and lacked the ability to say no and how or why I lost those things. The difference between then and now, is that I’m happier. Somehow with a goal of getting out of my comfort zone more, I managed to change my lifestyle to one that includes more time in my cozy clothes, which seems a little contradictory.
There is comfort in the habits you’ve always had. While I didn’t exactly run topless through any public parks or get a fake ID, I stepped out in my own way. This year I truly began to leave the comfort of trying to fit the mold of what “twenty somethings” should be doing, of pleasing others, and of being hard on myself when I didn’t enjoy large parties with loud music. This created space to boldly and confidently, put my pajamas on at 3 PM, get into my bed, and read Shel Silverstein poems. And the happier these choices made me, the more comfortable I feel telling people honestly, that these are the plans I am looking forward to. Call me Grandma, it’s okay, my Grandmas were bosses.
FEELING THE RED
When I was younger, and life became overwhelming, and full of feelings but needed to continue on, I invoked what I called power mode. A highly productive, completely non-emotive state that made me walk faster, smile less, and accomplish all the tasks. This was how I thought the bad ass ladies did it and since I left school and began the work of actually picking up my feelings, turning them over in my hands and getting to know them, it has become more challenging to quickly toss them to the side. This year, I had imagined the LIR getting back in touch with that power mode and tossing challenging feelings, fear, anxiety, pain, into the fires fueled by her badass-ness. (Are you seeing the action movie I saw yet?)
It is tough to come to terms with the fact that there will come a time in your life, where you are sitting entirely alone, on the bathroom floor of gas station in the middle of nowhere, feeling like your uterus might actually be shredding itself inside your body and you’ve got about 2 minutes before you simultaneously pass out and throw up. When this moment comes, you are going to be petrified. And sometimes, you are sitting comfortably in your own home and nothing has gone wrong, but you are crying a lot.
I have spent much of this year feeling, with as much valor as one can muster, because despite how pathetic it may seem to fall deeply into sadness or lame it might sound to allow yourself to be overcome with fear, there lies strength in every feeling you have. Everyone has heard at least one terribly cliché line about the growth there is in hardship, so I won’t bore you with another. Only just days ago did I come to the realization that I may have permanently graduated from power mode. These days, feeling mode is power mode, only messier. So unlike the robotic version of LIR I had imagined, I weep and get scared, am overjoyed, and look my feelings right in the eye and say, bring it on.
LADY IN RED
All of this talk about embodying Red as a power color becomes awkward when I mention that I hardly ever wear it. In the past year, I have purged and revitalized my wardrobe multiple times and I always come to a similar conclusion. I prefer to wear primarily neutrals, in simple and comfortable fabrics and styles. I feel most confident when I am most comfortable, and when one is at their most confident, they are perhaps unknowingly presenting themselves as the girl in the bold red dress. Comfort is confidence, and confidence is a Be-dazzler. And so we come to the final conclusion that Red, the subject for my year and this post, is somewhat irrelevant. Sorry.
I’m sure many of you, myself included, have your own set of New Years Resolutions, intentions, goals, or fantasies for 2018. And I’m sure many of you are reflecting on the things you set out to do twelve months ago that fell by the wayside. If you are grumbling at yourself for not perfectly living out the year you predicted, hoped, imagined for yourself this time last year, I encourage you to shift your perspective. I mean, I just made the argument that wearing my pajamas for more hours of the day was a step outside my comfort zone.
I encourage a lot of self-high-fives today and tomorrow, because you lived another year so, you did at least one thing right. I encourage a dance party with all of the nerdiest and most invigorating dance moves you have in your repertoire, regardless of your surroundings. I encourage singing, “Time of My Life” at the top of your lungs into your hairbrush, while staring at yourself in the mirror because, it’s been a time of your life (good or bad) and you really do, owe it all to you. I encourage you to stare at the wall of paint swatches in home depot and pick the one that colors your intentions for the new year.
I set out on this year of red with the intention of being bold, confident, and to embody the spirit of the LIR spinning through the dance hall. I hoped for so many specific things but at its core, the year of red has been learning the lesson that the boldest thing one can be is completely and unapologetically themselves. I am not even going to try to predict 2018, but I’m off to have a midnight dance party now, in my kitchen, with my pajamas, a nostalgic feeling sitting in my bones, and my red lipstick, so I think it’s off to a good start.