March 4, 2006

Maybe This Is Who I am?

The first time I did it:

I am twenty years old and very drunk. It is past midnight and a gust of my second wind forces me into action. Ever since I was a child, whenever an idea enters my consciousness, no matter how absurd or impractical it may seem, it must at least be attempted. This impulsiveness has plagued me for as long as I can remember. Sometimes my actions result in favorable outcomes, and other times they lead to results that may not be impressive years later…

Living within skating distance of a twenty-four hour Safeway grocery store that somehow sells alcohol hours after midnight is not conducive to responsible behavior. I need bleach. Twenty minutes, a bruised knee, and several bits of gravel embedded in my palms later I am home, filling a bucket with water and the toxic liquid. One-to-one seems like a good ratio. Open another beer and turn up the music. Most people in the house are asleep, and I am far too drunk to notice if there are others still awake. For if they are awake, they sit quietly and watch in awe as I proceed to fulfill my goal to be blond before dawn.

I am attentive enough to keep the Clorox out of my eyes, but don’t think that soaking my scalp in a bucket of liquid, designed to clean bathtubs, is bad idea. I scream and run around the room like a lunatic as it burns. I repeat the process for about an hour and eventually pass out somewhere in the house. I awake in the morning completely ignorant of what I had intended to do, and am mildly surprised to find my scalp soar, red, and my hair a dull shade of copper orange. A thin red line of pain circles my scalp.

I am not writing this post to embarrass myself, although I am sure I have done so thoroughly. But rather, I want to explore the internal forces that made me act that way for several years. After that initial episode, I became the master of transformations. Every day a different worm would be distorted into a quickly fading butterfly. I learned the nuisances of peroxide, hair dyes and the clout of a set of hair clippers. A friend once said to me, “You look different every time I see you.” Magenta, orange, fire, blood, platinum, blond, plum, green, aqua, short, long, unkempt, tight, my hair had a life of its own. But it wasn’t only the hair, the tattoos spread and various appendages were pierced only to be unpierced; ears, tongues, nipples.

The only constant was that I never wanted to see the same person in the mirror. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t one of those people who hate themselves so much that they are constantly trying to erase who they are behind a series of mask. Or maybe I was. I am no psychiatrist. I feel, however, that I didn’t know myself well enough to hate myself. All I knew was that I didn’t believe that one look was enough to show the world what was going on inside my psyche. I wanted to be different. All the time. But living in San Francisco the more I tried to be different, the more I was looking like everyone else. I was trying to be myself, but since I had no idea who I was, my look constantly changed. Day by day, I never felt the same, so why should I look the same. I have always been awed by the fact that actors, and musicians can constantly reinvent themselves. Why should we be denied this freedom? Besides the drugs were opening parts of my mind to sides of my consciousness that I had kept locked up since I was a child. The shame, the joy. the rage, the confusion, the blame all spilled out through the latest hair color and alcohol binge. It was fun.

Years later I am starting to realize that we send mixed signals to our children. You are unique. Be yourself. We are all the same on the inside. Well which is it? Are we all the same or are we all unique dewdrops. Be an individual. Be a team player. Years later the tattoos are still here, thank god, as reminders of the struggle this soul has been through. The piercings have been reduced to one signal ring that still feels true. The metal has grown into the flesh and has become a part of who I am. Just as the ink has tanned and tanned again and again. But I am no closer to understanding if I want to nurture my ego, or to set it free. If we are all the same than why do I feel so different? And if we are all unique than why do I feel so much like you?

While the inner turmoil may have quieted considerably since alcohol is no longer there to taunt it, the questions still remains: Are we unique? And if so, does it matter? Who cares if you are an individual? Who cares if you are special? The older I get the more I am realizing that maybe it is more important to focus on how much more a like we are than trying to separate ourselves by clinging to our individuality. The ego rattles in its cage, waiting to be set free. Like Walt Whitman said, if every atom in me is the same as every atom in you, than why was I sitting in a hair salon an hour ago drinking a Cappuccino with tin foil in my hair getting highlights.

maybe the storm inside still rages... maybe I am still obsessed with wanting attention... maybe I still like to go against…I don’t even know what anymore… maybe I don’t want to be the type of person who looks exactly the same for years…maybe I am still bored…maybe the shy child inside still needs to act out…maybe I am still love playing dress-up…maybe I like sitting in a salon drinking coffee and reading magazines on Saturday afternoons…maybe I am glad I am not bald, wearing kaki Dockers and tucked in shirts…maybe I like the idea of people saying, “oh Jabiz!”…maybe I don’t think you need to be famous to act like you are…maybe I am holding on to my youth and think that a hairstyle will help me stay hip… maybe I am controlled by something inside that I cannot control…maybe I really am vain…maybe I just need to be told I am loved…maybe I just need to have someone tell me they understand…maybe I need to not feel so isolated..,maybe I need you to agree…maybe this is who I am...maybe none of this matters...there's no maybe about it.

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