I’m not a person to look up to. I’ve got a lot of problems and spend most of my time just trying to function properly in this world. But somehow I’m surrounded by friends and family who think I’m strong. In my mind, this is due in part to both pity and empathy. People either feel bad that I’m suffering or see themselves in my mess of problems. I’ll take either because at least people are thinking of me.
I smile. I joke. I laugh (loudly). I make sure I’m hot to trot when I leave the house. I live. But it’s not easy. I’ve got a voice in my head that reminds me every waking moment that I ain’t shit. And a painfully vivid memory that replays old feelings and moments I’d rather forget altogether. Both play at their own pace, when they please. They don’t need my permission.
I’ve been stuck in this vicious cycle because part of me allows it. I accept that I’m anxious, hurt, and traumatized. I live by these labels and use them to validate my transgressions. I hurt people and blame anxiety. It’s easy to live this way, but it’s even easier to end up alone this way. There’s a lot I can handle in this beautiful and terrifying world; experiencing life alone is not one of them.
I’m addicted to anxiety and pain. I never really thought of myself this way until I watched, of all things, this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I saw myself in the anxious contestant, Katya. She was a shining star, the epitome of humor and kindness. She was one of the most talented queens and always built up her competitors. But what I saw was a contestant who sabotaged herself into defeat. She had the talent to go all the way but gave up on herself too soon. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to look back on my life and realized the reason I lost the things I wanted was because I mind fucked myself into thinking I wasn’t worthy.
I vowed to grab life by the balls, dig my nails in, and twist. There’s no easy way to change, so I just prefer to do it immediately. I’m working on being more confident, owning the badass bitch that I am. It’s a work-in-progress.
My first test was a painting party for my friend Nichole. I went in knowing that I’d obsess over the details of my painting and despair over the slightest mistake. I’m a perfectionist. But I made a promise to myself that I’d relax and just go with the flow. My best friend Nesh in tow, I knew I was set for a good day because if I failed to relax Nesh would knock some sense into me.
I vented any and all negative jitters I had about life before we got to the painting place. I didn’t want to go in negative.
When we arrived, we settled in and immediately enjoyed the chips and cookies our friend had set out. I was, of course, the first one to go for the snacks because I have absolutely no shame. Like if there’s one piece of cake left I’ll end up taking it while the polite people are faking like they’re not interested.
But we weren’t there to eat snacks. Our uber fun instructor named Amy arrived and got us prepped to paint the Eiffel Tower at sunset. I was excited, albeit almost 100% positive that I would not be painting anything close to the sample picture.
We started with the background colors and I was super hype with my brush. I was not careful, and I enjoyed not being careful. I did strokes as big as I wanted and didn’t worry about replicating the target picture exactly. It’s MY painting, so the only one who needs to approve of it at the end of the day is me. We may only have painted a few colors, but I already loved it and was so proud of myself.
When Amy felt like the mood was too serious and focused, she urged us to take a break and play a fun game instead. She passed out paper plates and issued a hilarious challenge: to paint a portrait of the person next to us on the plate. I immediately smiled at Nesh, but her face was faux-serious.
“You better not paint me white,” she said. I died, half because it was funny, and half because all I had was black paint and I didn’t know how to make brown.
Thankfully Amy taught me how to make brown or I probably would have been walking home that day. I was totally gagged by the portrait I made and the portrait Nesh made of me. I laughed as I presented mine and almost fell out of my chair when she showed me her artwork. I don’t know about you or anyone else, but I think it’s spot-on (except for the luscious eyelashes and eyebrow piercing she decided to add).
The rest of the peeps in the party presented their portraits, but only two would win awards from Amy. One was the best, and one was the… not the worst, but the most unique…? Needless to say I won the latter, except she gave me life by saying it was the Hot Mess Award. I won a coffee travel mug with a wine glass in it and bragging rights (which I will exercise).
We carefully finished our paintings, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. From a technical standpoint, mine was probably the worst in the room. But nobody was going to tell me anything. Mine was a Flores original and I loved it like my own child. I loved it because I had fun. I didn’t stress out. It was a product of positive vibes, patience, and laughter.
The day meant more than celebrating a friend, or painting a picture–it meant that I was growing. I was learning not to let anxiety control me. I was learning to have fun. I had left worry and negativity at the door.
Since then things have been so-so. I have good days and bad days, but I always remember to take it day by day. Sometimes I hurt and sometimes I want to give in, but I won’t. Even if it’s not always for the love of myself, I fight to change for my Mom and for the friends who have been there for me through thick and thin, the ones who have seen the ugliest parts of me and stayed. I want to be a better person for them and for me.
I don’t know if tomorrow is going to be a good day or a bad day, but I don’t care. Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. I’ll deal with it then. For now I just want to say to the world, and to myself: I love who I am. I’m not a person to look up to. I’ve got a lot of problems and spend most of my time just trying to function effectively in this world. But I’m living. I’m trying.