Last week, I walked through my neighbourhood and passed a theatrical costume store called Malabar, a place through which I love to rummage for the sheer joy of the pageantry. And that brief moment would have been forgotten had not fellow blogger Madelin Adena Smith posted a hyper-caffeinated blog and vlog early this morning.
In it, she challenged her readers/listeners to consider the roles they play in their day-to-day lives and asked us to consider the real us that lay hidden beneath those performances, which made me think of my psychosocial closet and all of the costumes I have worn throughout my life.
(Before proceeding, this is not a complaint against family or friends. These costumes were of my own choosing and it is only now in later life that I am realizing what I did to myself.)
Here is the schoolboy outfit…god, I was so small back then…the dutiful student who wanted to explore storytelling, but knew that this was not the accepted route to success. Oh, I was supported in my storytelling, but only as a hobby. My real future lay in science and medicine.
And the eldest son/man-of-the-house costume…almost looks like a football uniform with its broad shoulders and firm back…heady responsibilities for a young boy growing up and not having a clue as to who he is supposed to be, let alone actually is.
The clown costume…my go-to in times of stress…a protective device against a world in which I didn’t feel I belonged or related. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh. Then run away.
The Creative Director costume…the true song-and-dance man of my repertoire. This was perhaps my biggest role in life and is a costume I still wear on occasion, if only because it is expected by clients.
My psychosocial closet is filled with these things and all of them served to block my art because they stifled the real me.
You see the problem with the bars of a cage is that they work in two directions. Yes, they keep the world from getting at you, but at the same time, they keep you from reaching your true self and that is where your art lives.
During my eldest son phase, my art would express itself in the wee hours of the morning, long after everyone had gone to bed, until my mother would finally yell downstairs for me to cease the deafening machine-gun fire of my electronic typewriter.
The clown phase almost cost me the love of my life but when the silly girl challenged that I was simply a clown, my hackles rose and I gave her reams of painfully personal poetry I had written. Her preconceptions shattered, we were married within a year and were so for 13 years.
Interestingly, it was the new costumes we donned during our marriage that led to our separation last year. Luckily, in shedding those costumes, we remain very close friends and confidantes.
Ironically, even my Creative Director guise stifled my art. Sure, I was creative, but for others, not me. This is the main reason why I chose to quit my job last year and pursue my art as a career unto itself. I had to sacrifice something, and it was the job.
With rare exceptions, my psychosocial closet is now just a relic of my past; a yearbook at which I can reflect on lives lived and mistakes made. It is not, thank goodness, something into which I feel the need to dip.
The only real costume I wear now is my Randall C Willis (please, call me Randy); the only costume that was ever truly mine. The artist has no clothes, if you will.
And because I have finally divestmented myself, my art can flow freely and keeps me warm at nights.
I am, therefore I create. It’s a great feeling.
And in the meantime, I wonder if Goodwill accepts old costumes.
So, now that I stand here naked (don’t think about it), I feel free to ask: What costumes you have worn in your life or do so now that have blocked your art?