There is a constant yin-yang between wanting to fit in and expressing individuality. We somehow think that we will leave this behind when we cross the threshold to adulthood and finally be comfortable, but find soon enough – drat it all – that this balance is a life-long pursuit in our personal and professional lives. And balance is probably not the best word because how few of us ever feel that we have found just the right weighting of each element? (Or even in those sweet moments that we do, how quickly something changes again.)
We progress through life attempting to figure out how to fit in within ourselves and also within various groups. Do I? Should I? How was that? Validation is sweet. Small set-backs in one area can ripple through our impression of placement in other areas painfully and quickly. Seismic moments of uncertainty can make us want to jump in bed, pull the covers up and figure out how to be a hermit.
I have been able to find my way through life, so far, in a manner that has allowed me to sample many geographic areas, various groups – formal and informal, and provided latitude to explore different ideas. I have soared and I have stumbled, mostly plodded along at a fairly steady pace. It has helped that my mom shared her infinite curiosity and my dad shared his determination. These traits have served me well and stand in place of confidence and assuredness when necessary, plus make room for all sorts of adjustments here and there.
About that Hello Kitty™ lunchbox – I am drawn to her calm, serene thoroughly pleased countenance. But I was too old when she first came into popularity because she was marketed to girls several years younger than me. Purportedly then, I was much too old when she came back to prominence a few years ago. But a funny thing had happened in the years between. I got comfortable enough with my sense of self that I could indulge in the whimsy that Hello Kitty™ offered, despite my advanced age.
When I received said lunchbox as a gift my practical side said, this will be more useful and less wasteful than paper bags; and my creative self said, what a great thing to give me a smile every day. I was firmly on the leadership track at work by then, but I have never believed that professionalism leaves no room for personal – even quirky – expression. I am possibly in the minority in this belief.
People from senior management down to entry level didn’t quite know how to react to my new possession. Even the person who gave it to me might have been surprised that I used it at work. (I never asked and she never said.) Some people tried to make me feel embarrassed about carrying such a ‘childish’ item into an office. ‘About that lunchbox of yours’ they would start and I would jump in, ‘doesn’t she just brighten up your day?’. They didn’t know where to go after that.
I carried that lunchbox for about 6ish years. Until she was looking a bit worn and tired. Another friend gave me a new bag, also with personality, but this time more ‘grown-up’. The Hello Kitty™ lunchbox was retired. But she is still in my heart, rooting for self-expression.
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