Only in recent years have I been able to look into the mirror and say, with total conviction, I am who the fuck I want to be.
I will share with you a great tragedy that I’ve observed in this world. Most people will go an entire lifetime without really knowing who they are, let alone feeling the freedom to completely express it. If that makes you go, “Thank God I know exactly who I am,” there’s a good chance I’m addressing you. Self discovery and expression are immensely liberating, if you’re brave enough to explore them.
I started this post sometime ago, but a recent event lit a fire under my balls to complete it. See, a few weeks ago, I posted a photo to Facebook after returning from Mexico. It was a bit risqué. Well, risqué, according what a bunch of traditionals consider socially acceptable. And while the vast majority of people just loved the positive mojo and empowerment that I was putting out, I did get a right wave of disapproval from many, plus a pissed off ex-girlfriend. But that’s another story for another day.
Our first night in Oaxaca, Mexico, we stayed in a beautiful, multi-room Airbnb with a spiral staircase leading to our room, a vibrant courtyard with live foliage pouring down over the balcony rails, and a full outdoor kitchen with a long dining table for all the guests; and a parrot! The place was just full of Zen. Several world travelers were doing the same thing as we, and the hostess invited all of us to a home cooked Day of the Dead meal that night. We fell right in with our new friends, and went out that night to the local bar scene. I was in good company, I was feeling the vibes, and we all went right to having drinks and/or shots of Mezcal, the elixir of Oaxaca. I’ll spare the rest of the details of that night, partly because I’ll tell what the hell I want to tell, and partly because, well, some parts are a bit hazy. But suffice it to say that it was, like many of our nights in other places, fucking epic, and full of memories that money cannot buy. And I had zero regrets. I never do. I never will.
Anyway, someone grabbed a few candid photos of me the next morning, delightfully hungover, in the mood to light up a cigar, and peacefully contemplate life on a Mexican rooftop as the sun rose and chased the morning dew off the courtyard foliage. One of the photos quickly became quite possibly one of my favorite personal photos ever, for not a single reason other than its sheer purity. It was captured at a moment where I wasn’t posing. I wasn’t flexing. My hair looked like I bathed in Astroglide and stuck my disco stick into a live light socket. And I was in my Jinshi underwear. I mean, hell, I was just out of bed. That’s how I sleep. And for the record, it’s the same shit that pro wrestlers, MMA fighters, and Olympic swimmers wear on international fucking television. Oh, and I was smoking a cigar. Stop the hearse. Sorry, I digress.
Some of the happiest, most fulfilled people that I know are those who know who they want to be, and who live it out to the fullest, unashamedly and unapologetically. A good friend and mentor, once told me:
Tripp, I believe that all human beings just want to be completely, authentically self-expressed.John Eliopolo, you’re a good man.
I’ve always KNOWN who I want to be, what kind of life I want to live, what I want to express, say and do. But BEING who I want to be, well, that’s something I’ve only stepped into in recent years. And as someone who has long been intrigued with sociology, anthropology and human behavior, I’ve spent some considerable time contemplating why the fuck it took me so long. And my contemplations consistently return me to one common cause for the stifling of full human self expression: the societal norm. It is a formidable beast. And every civilization, culture, faction, group, clan or tribe that has ever existed has had a generally accepted baseline for what is considered “normal.” And if you really want to explore your own identity, and to express your own complete, authentic self, chances are you are going to have to go against that norm. Here are some things to expect.
First, a whole shitload of people in your hometown, or wherever you spent your impressionable years, are going to think you’ve lost your fucking mind. Some people will be really concerned. Some will be really judgmental. Some will throw their arms around you and say, “Damn, what happened to you? You look so happy! Tell me your story!” But mostly, they’ll just gasp and say shit like “Who are you?” and “What did you do to your hair?” and “Are those tattoos?” and “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” and “Are you gay?” and “Do you still believe in God?” and “What kind of drugs are you on?”
Look, it’s okay. Can you blame them? Remember, most of your life they’ve known you to be this timid, introverted dork who follows the rules, is petrified of the opposite sex, doesn’t speak his mind, reads books for leisure, and cries like a little bitch…a lot. OK, that was actually childhood Tripp. Incidentally, after high school I went through a long period of mass emotional suppression, which was unexpectedly unlocked years later during a routine counseling session. I cried for like seven godforsaken days straight. Damn near a decade of squashed emotion sprang forth like a seed geyser from a teenager who’s just discovered the joys of jacking off. Damn that counselor, being all therapeutic and shit.
Second, you’re probably going to lose some friends, and sometimes maybe even family. They probably won’t light up pig shit on your doorstep and piss on your “Shoes Off, Fuckers” welcome mat or anything. They’ll likely just be distant, awkward, or sort of fade away. And that’s okay, too. Friends tend to fluctuate in life anyway. I’ve heard it said that your circle of close friends morphs or transforms every seven years or so. That’s been pretty accurate in my life. As far as family is concerned, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen persistent love prevail. I’ve watched a previously racist grandmother embrace multiple black children as her own. I’ve watched a father tearfully embrace the gay son that he once swore he could never love. If you’re not fortunate enough to have this experience, then the most important thing I can say to you is be grateful for your own self-discovery, and do your best to continue to love unconditionally. Once the bitter bug bites you, that shit is hard to overcome. It will suck the life right out of you. Remember, when you can first love yourself completely, you can love others completely.
Finally, it’s likely you will be the topic of conversation in many circles where people just don’t understand your lifestyle choices. What you have to realize here is that those conversations have absolutely nothing to do with you, and everything to do with other people’s jealousies and insecurities. When those who are asleep criticize those who are awake, what they are actually communicating is contempt for the generic identities that they so cling to for their security, yet so loathe for their constriction.
As a final word, crisis is certainly a common portal to the path of self-discovery and expression, and in this life, if you’re lucky, you’ll have one, or maybe even several. For me, it took just such a tragedy…several tragedies actually. And I’m immensely grateful for them all, because every one of my tragedies was accompanied by a subsequent awakening. The last one ultimately led me to do what I’d been wanting to for many years: to leave town for good; to sell, give away or trash most of my shit; to move to the beach; to start traveling domestically and internationally; to depart a long history of serial monogamy to explore deliberate singleness, and why I feel the incessant need to always be in a relationship; and to really start exploring my dark innards.
And as long as you, my friends, are living according to the inherent laws of human decency, without malicious intent, doing no harm to others, or to yourself, then to all my ex-gangbangers leaving their violent neighborhoods to study or play their asses off to get out of the ghetto, facing their counterparts who call them sellouts; to all my women who have chosen travel and pets over the commitment of children, facing a society who tells them to find a mate and get pregnant as soon as possible; to all my parents who curse and drink and lose their shit on occasion, facing a society that tells them not to show their children what it looks like to be human; to all my interracial couples; to all my gays and lesbians and sluts and harlots and other sexual deviants; to all my singles just exploring being single, I say to you, brave souls, step up, breathe, and be whoever the fuck you want to be.
And bonus points if you are actively promoting the mental, physical, spiritual or emotional wellbeing of your fellow humans.
Lots of peace, love and good mojo. Cheers.
Title photo: Mine.
Photo 1: “Catedral de Oaxaca de noche” by reginaalvidrez at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Catedral_de_Oaxaca_de_noche.jpg
Photo 2: “Sheep Gang” by peter.more at https://flic.kr/p/9utxqr
Photo 3: “Peace and Freedom” by mini malist at https://flic.kr/p/Don4az