Embrace Your Differences

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune the week of April 9, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

IMG_0300I was getting ready to meet my grandchildren, one of whom is a teenage granddaughter, and I wondered if I would pass muster and dress appropriately so I wouldn’t embarrass her. I know she used to enjoy my quirky and colorful clothes, but that was when she was little and wasn’t as aware of what her peers were doing.

To be fair to her, she has never acted embarrassed about introducing me to anyone, especially her friends. I happen to love her teenage friends because they are so respectful and fun to be with, but I wonder if silently she may question my choices.

I have toned down what I wear in the last year or two. I must admit, I haven’t felt as if I was myself in my senior adult clothes choice, which is what is expected of someone my age. I tried to conform again.

Recently with all the hoopla surrounding Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields and the criticism for wearing bikinis at their age, I thought long and hard about my choices. No, I do not plan on trying a bikini — I never looked good in them, but I happen to think these two women looked beautiful. It is their choice to choose what they wear at their age and not our business.

When I changed my natural hair color and went red a few months ago, I did have to endure comments from people who thought the drastic changing of my hair color was terrible. I got many more compliments than criticism, but it is the criticism that stayed with me.

My mom wasn’t a dresser and did not take good care of her looks. I know now she just didn’t have time, and clothes were not important to her. Although recently finding pictures of her in her early 20s, I realized at one time she had style and her clothes were beautiful. Somewhere in her busy life, she lost all that. I must admit, at times I was ashamed of the way she dressed and the fact she had bobby pins keeping her hair in place long after bobby pins were fashionable. I was a teenager, and it wasn’t my friends who gave me a hard time about how my mom dressed. It was other adults such as relatives and neighbors. They would ask me as a teenager and especially as an adult why I didn’t do something. As a teenager, I didn’t know what to do and as an adult, instead of not seeing dementia taking hold, I tried to help, but to no avail. The bottom line is I should not have been ashamed. That was who she was.

Recently, I acquired some bright clothes with wild patterns, and they really are me. The first time I put on a wild pair of pants my husband asked, “You aren’t really going out in that are you?” I proudly replied, “Yes, I am.”

I was told to dress brightly for a small school play I was involved in by Retired Senior Volunteers. I wore my bright clothes everywhere that day. I smiled all day; I felt like me.

I have a cousin who I got to know when she was a teenager. She is now an adult, a mother, and a beautiful person. Her mother, who I love, lamented during her daughter’s teenage years that her daughter liked to shop at thrift stores when they had more than enough money to buy the best of clothing. This teenager went on to college and earned a degree or two and first was going to be a lawyer or a doctor and follow in her family’s footsteps. But she knew this life wasn’t for her, and now she works for the DNR at a lower wage than she would have made at one of the other careers.  She lives in a beautiful state, tracks wildlife (yikes wolves) and works on sustaining our environment. She followed her own path. She knew early on who she was. She knows her value and is happy with her choices.

This is my advice for the teenagers in my life and in yours. God made us all different. We come in all different shapes and sizes. We like different things and have different personalities. Embrace that. Why would God make us each different if he wanted us to try and all be the same?

As a teenager, follow your style and don’t wear clothes just because they have a certain designer label or because you feel you need to look like your friends. A true friend will embrace that. Be you. Be different because God made you uniquely you. Celebrate it. Don’t let anyone make you feel you are less smart or less beautiful because you are smaller, bigger, look different or have flaws. Those flaws are all part of the wonderful you. Live your life. Take it from an adult who didn’t learn these lessons until I got old. Making choices to accept who you are in the noise of the world will be your pathway to a more peaceful life. If we were, all the same, it would be a dull world.

2 thoughts on “Embrace Your Differences

  1. I try to be myself—but there is such pressure for conformity in our society. I still rebel a little by not wearing any makeup—I hate how it feels on my face—and ordering a dark beer instead of wine at our ladies’ luncheons. I wish I were a little more brave.

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