September 12, 2012

Don’t Box Me In. ~ Dara Brown

I wasn’t raised in a box—and by box, I mean the neat boxes in which we categorize people (hipster, jock, cheerleader).

Nope. My family was different from the start.

Black foreign parents. Catholic. Living in the south. I don’t know why my parents thought I’d grow up to be an accountant. With so many potential labels as a kid, I only remember a few of them:

It was assumed I’d be a good athlete. (It turns out I really hate competitive sports.)

Both my sisters were good at math, so of course I should be. (Um… pass the calculator.)

I’m the reliable and logical one so I don’t get emotional easily. (Well, that’s just a load of crap.)

People try hard to put others in a box. To give them label. I found that to be the most annoying part of online dating—checking the box that best describes you. Well, what if I’m more than one?

Looking at all the different boxes that I didn’t fit into as a kid, what would make my adult life any different?

Actually, at one point, I did try to conform. I was in my early college years, and I somehow thought that more people would understand me, dating would be easier and I’d be happier. I sank into a deep funk that persisted for about two years. I was lucky I could still function, go to my college classes and work.

I went looking for ways to feel alive, searched for ways of finding a way out of my funk. Most of the methodology I used was destructive. Sex. Alcohol. More sex and alcohol. And even more.

Then it happened. I met him. I fell in love. Funk broken.

But here’s the thing about falling in love for the first time—you have no idea what’s going on. That’s a box that we’ve all been shoved into at some point. We’re a jumble of hormones and emotions. Though I had already experienced a lot of my hormones, this was different.

He wanted to know me. To be with me. To share his life with me.

We talked about growing old together, and sitting on the front porch, and watching our grandchildren play. He told me my intellect turned him on. (Yes, he was actually sincere.) I spent time with his family, and he spent time with mine.

College life got better. I became more involved, and volunteered more in the community. With my funk broken, I was ready to start thinking about the future. Not only mine, but ours. As my graduation approached, the conversation became more focused. He was ready to get married. With my new de-funkified existence, all I could think about was, “what else is there?” I wasn’t ready to check that box yet. I was only 21 and about to graduate from college—the whole world lay at my feet.

So he moved on and married someone else. (Yes, I went to the wedding. We can talk about my boundary issues later.) And I moved away. We still check up on each other every once in a while. He’s now been divorced twice and I have never met anyone who de-funks the world like he does. Before you ask the obvious question, “why don’t you get together now?” please trust me when I say there’s more to the story, and he ended up hurting me dearly.

I wish him the world. Really, I do. I know he does the same for me.

It’s been almost 15 years, and I have found new ways to de-funk and realize that it has much less to do with objects or persons, and more to do with where I point my heart. I choose to point it back in toward the most authentic parts of myself.

Many of us remember that famous line in “Dirty Dancing” before the big closing dance scene: “No one puts Baby in a corner.” I used to say no one can put me in a box. But now some boxes I check willingly and proudly—yogini, teacher, friend, sister, volunteer, dance maniac and single.

Dara Brown is a free-wheeling, yet often serious gal who began practicing yoga in the early years of college as a way to counter her gym workout crazed tendencies. Her practice has taught her to speak with more clarity, to listen with more than her ears and to have more patience with others (OK, still working on the last part). As a formerly licensed and certified Anusara yoga instructor, she’s shared her yoga practice with a wide audience in a variety of forums. In the end, she’s happy with her life as a Yoga instructor and public health educator who lives with a dominating, fuzzy cat and is learning to negotiate the dating world. Hang with or message Dara on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DaraBrownYoga

Editor: Anne Clendening

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