One unfortunate fact of life is that not all of us can look back at our childhood with fondness. We all come from different backgrounds with different stories of trial and triumph.
However, the one thing we all had in common as kids was a love for the art of make believe. Whether it was having a tea party with dolls, trying on mom’s clothes, playing cops and robbers on bicycles, or wailing like Tarzan in the trees… we all pretended to be more than what we were as children.
This weekend my family and friends attended a costume party in downtown Atlanta in celebration of Halloween. Those in New York and Jamaica who couldn’t make it were sure to attend parties in their neck of the woods and sent their pictures to prove it.
We had been planning the outing for a month and had invested time, money and skill into putting together costumes for the affair. It took hours of costume hunting online, makeup tutorials, and even having some pieces custom made several months before. In the end, it all paid off.
At the lounge, there were many others who had put in the time and effort to create elaborate get-ups. They were in character from head to toe. The whirl of colours and vortex of creative expression made me regret the decision to live for the moment, instead of spending the night snapping keepsake pictures for myself and my blog.
Nevertheless, since my eyes weren’t glued to a camera screen all night, it gave me time to observe and reflect.
Amidst the company of Jasmine, the Big Bad Wolf, Subzero, Mike Meyers and other notable company, I realised that even as adults, we had never stopped playing dress up. We had never stopped pretending – and I don’t mean for costume parties.
Yes, we were pimps and cows and pumpkins and sailors for the night, but what about the costumes we wear every day? What about the many faces we create and change as we deem appropriate?
While studying sociology in college, my lecturer turned to Shakespeare’s wordsmithing skills to explain human interaction, how we go about it, and why. The quote of choice had come from the play As You Like It:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
The truth is, we never did stop pretending as adults. We just learned to become more and more convincing. In fact, having many faces is essential to being a well-rounded and functional individual in society.
The problem comes into play when you believe that you must pretend to be something else in order to be accepted by and to impress others. This isn’t something we spend a lot of time considering when we’re adults.
We like to think that we have outgrown peer pressure and make all our decisions independently. Older and more mature, we’re far too wise to fall prey to the whims of friends and the desire to fit in and be held in high regard. Or are we?
Many people will point out that with maturity comes the knowledge that compromise is necessary, and this is true. We can’t always have exactly what we want, especially when one has a spouse or children to consider.
Even so, there is a huge difference between compromising in a situation and compromising on your core values and who you are as a person.
Still, there will be times in your life when compromising on even your core values will be necessary toward becoming a better person or building stronger relationships with the people that matter.
For instance, when I first started freelancing, I would work right through the week without a day off. Being productive as much and as often as possible is one of my core values. It gives my life meaning – whether it’s working on a blog post for fun, or writing a paid article for a client.
However, those commitments often came in the way of my relationships. Every outing with friends and family was frequently punctuated by me running off to reply to emails from old clients and negotiating rates with new ones.
In the end, after numerous complaints, I agreed to cut down my hours and free up my weekends. Not only did it keep the peace, but it has also strengthened the relationships that are most important to me, which includes a strong relationship with myself.
Of course, that means getting less work done and essentially making less money, but we can’t have it all. That is the point of compromising. It isn’t the art of make believe or pretending. It is the art of self-sacrificing for a better or higher cause that is worth the cost.
Never sacrifice for frivolous reasons and seasonal people. Every decision and every moment we spend in life is an investment. Invest that time, that effort, and those decisions into somethings and someones who are worth the cost and have the potential to contribute long-term value to your odyssey in life.
Life is too short to waste it pretending to be something we’re not, and too long to spend it with people who do not appreciate us for who and what we are.