August 21, 2023

A “Thank You” to that Funky Fabulous Older Woman who gave me permission to Funkify.

Thank you, Dear Stranger, for awakening my bravery to be just me.

Twenty-four-year-old Rayna was consumed with fearful self-doubt, magnified by incessant messages of fitting in and being loved as the keys to happiness and success.

Something within me knew that “normal” wasn’t necessarily my dress code, but I was lost.

My purple-streaked hair and tiny permanent ink spots were easily hidden away for self-preservation and a drive for maximal acceptance.

And then I saw you.
Strolling down that rainbow-splashed street named “University” in Hillcrest, San Diego.

I stared.
You didn’t seem to notice, or perhaps you didn’t mind if indeed you had noticed.
Black glitter platform sneakers.
Funky black statement shades.
Sleek bob haircut. My fave.
You rocked that head-to-toe black ensemble brilliantly.
I have always guessed that you were in your early 70s.

Young Rayna was enraptured.
I had been taught that standing out was not usually a positive thing.
I had struggled with this seemingly claustrophobic mindset most of my life.
But my perfectionistic, people-pleasing tendencies were louder than the hum of individuality that I had tamed into submission.

And then I saw you.
Those internal critical voices quieted.
It’s remarkable that a silent stranger passing by can transform your life in one brief, magical moment.

Thank you, Dear Stranger.

My mouth gaped in wonder, willing me to try on your confidence.
I adored what I perceived as indifference to blending in, to being judged.
I felt your unapologetic existence throughout my entire body in those fateful seconds.
Keeping my sparkly strange tendencies locked away was growing tedious.
Trying to be the perfect professional psychotherapist I had set out to become in graduate school was becoming a heavy burden.

And then I saw you.
I saw myself reflected in you.
I wondered how you had achieved this level of self-love and comfort within your physical being.
And I felt determined to learn.

After you had passed me on the sidewalk, I changed course.
My steps quickened as I made my way to the local retro consignment store, conveniently located only blocks away.
As I entered, I was hit by a wave of joy.
A familiar upbeat tune danced through the speakers, two friendly employees greeted me from their cluttered counter top, and this experience felt “right.”

And then I saw them.
A turning rack filled with similar funky statement shades I had laid eyes upon minutes prior.
The rack delighted in a wide spectrum of colors, with one pair appearing to be staring directly at me.
Purple, my signature color.
They seemed to be daring me to move closer.
I increased my pace yet again and plucked them from the others.

I took a breath and thought, “Why not just try them on?”
Excitement enveloped me as I smiled at my remodeled reflection in that tiny mirror.
I felt a brief whisper of those familiar internal critics attempting to talk me out of my purchase.
“They’re too much. They’re too…weird.”

I took another deep breath.

“I can do this. It’s just a pair of sunglasses.”

As I paid for my piece of newly unleashed identity, I felt the employee’s feelings of encouragement pass through me.
“Thank you,” I said.

And with a smile that seemed to keep growing, I made my way toward the sunshine.

I took yet another cleansing breath, opened the glass doors, and bravely stepped out into my altered reality.

Still afraid of judgment, still nervous to “stand out,” but rocking those funky shades.

My transformative liberation of a lifetime had begun.

~

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