"Sans élégance de coeur, il n'y a pas d'élégance."
-Yves Saint Lauren, who said it first & best.
I lost my balance as I struggled to take down a string of lights at church. "You would've fallen on your back. And I would've laughed at you." The new acquaintance made me pause and consider the matter, and then I grinned.
"Are you kidding? I would have laughed at myself!"
Yves Saint Lauren. It means, "without elegance of the heart, there isn't any elegance." As much of a cliche as that sounds right off the bat, it's truth. Good manners are just a matter of culture. Fashion is one of my favorite topics, and if I could just map out my life today, I would go work in fashion in New York. Kind of like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wear's Prada (one of my favorite movies in existence). But again, as much as I love fashion, true elegance is found elsewhere. It is the way we behave with others.
It sounds cheesy. But y'know? Here I am, struggling between cultures in a place where drinking your coffee without your counterpart of the meeting being there is considered rude if they decide they wanted to get theirs with you. True elegance, I've chalked it up to, is knowing when one should just be cheesy.
I'm at ease with myself..I've always been. Sharing with another person, though? No, thanks. I'd rather run sometimes. I'm a passionate person, only insecure about what others perceive since I can pretty much guarantee that the walls are thick and there's no way they can dive in & feel from my brain. But I digress. At one point in time, I was shy. Painfully so. I enjoyed people; no one would know I was introverted or shy around them, but it was the known truth when I found myself in the car on the way home and breathed a deep sigh as I stuck my nose in a book.
Laughter is different; it's the same ease that happens when strangers gather around a table to partake in a meal together, and leave as friends. People laugh, and so they open up. "Why are you so serious?"
Relaxation with at least one or two others is so necessary; if you already live your life like that, I applaud you. So I asked myself the question when I was fourteen years old: "How do I make them feel at ease with me?" I was tired of forging friendships that didn't feel authentic. I had more recently joined my Shakespeare troupe, which I will still name off as a highlight of my life thus far, and longed for connection. With two or three in there were instantaneous "clicks," and are still the only few I happen to keep in contact with since they were and are so dear to me and so formative of my life at the time.
I learned to laugh at myself. It was one of the best lessons of my life thus far. My quirks and shyness melted. It would throw people off, cause them to laugh, and changed the energy in the conversation. The authenticity was so bright it was almost blinding. Because no longer was I afraid of anyone, I also stopped thinking that other people were thinking "about me." Most people, in fact, do not have you in the forefront of their minds (my mum told me for years and I just didn't get it).
"Am I blushing? 'Cause it feels like it!" Human. Honest. Simple. Not everything is a joke or should be taken as one, and so I suppose the point of all this is simply being comfortable with yourself; of course, easier said than done.
I had begun retreating into my shell again recently. Counseling has helped, but that's another story. I'm twenty-something years old, feeling each month and day and passing week this summer already. As people, we fall into the trap of self-consciousness. In the American culture specifically, it has become all about the facade. Perhaps some of the struggle stems from a particular downfall of our modern Western societal take on things — the too much pressure to Become Somebody, to Be the Change You Want to See, to Just Follow Your Dream (along with all the Disney princess music), and not even in just ten years or five or two, but tomorrow. Yesterday. Why, oh why, haven't you accomplished it already?
It's so hard to admit it, but failure is simply inevitable at times. I'm so thankful for the beautiful souls who have stood by me and reminded me what I know, what I suspect: that I’m not the only one who feels a bit lost every now and then. The me who’s had what could, at first, glance, appear to be a lot of false starts but always seems to end up back in the same boat; the one who's tired of letting all the "stuff" get in the way of being truly and simply, 'Sierra.'
Progress isn't made in our comfort zones, and it's believable enough to me that things can never become quite as honest as they ought to be without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. So, friend. If you happen to fall on your backside, I hope you laugh, in grace that you have a place to land.