Becoming Me


My career as an artist has taken me on a journey of rediscovering my true self, the person I was before life came along and convinced me that what I was, wasn’t good enough. I was born in 1966 and grew up in the 1970’s during a time when the fashion was mini skirts, go-go boots and bell bottom jeans.  While I had the “Shirley Temple” thing going on (see above), this was the “cool” hair:

straight haid

When I was a little girl I wanted to be Cher more than anything in the world! Cher would swing that gorgeous, silky hair around and I was so jealous of her!  I would sometimes wrap a towel around my head and pretend it was long silky hair and throw it over my shoulder!

I don’t know when I decided that my hair was defective, but I know that for most of my life I’ve battled those wild curls, and I’ve tried desperately to tame them.

My husband calls me “The Wild One.”  That “wildness” has often landed me in trouble more than a few times. I’m not rebellious or wild in a “law breaking” way; it’s more that I don’t always fit in the box that society tries to put me in. Eventually, I end up just breaking out of the box and causing all kinds of problems.

As a child, I was a “right-brained” person living in a “left-brained” world. I was the kid that couldn’t keep her room clean, couldn’t keep my locker organized, struggled with schedules, couldn’t sit in study hall, etc… My mom was frustrated, my teachers were frustrated and I was frustrated with myself. When I was that little girl in the picture above, I colored on my bedroom wall with crayons. It’s a good thing my mom bought the story that “Susie”, my imaginary friend, did it. Otherwise, I would have been in big trouble! She let me off the hook that time.

As an adult, I continued to struggle. I was depressed and never satisfied with my life unless I had some creative project going. People would say, “She’s creative” in a not-so-nice sounding way. A way that made me feel like being creative was a bad thing and that something was wrong with me.

It wasn’t until my 40th birthday and a major mid-life crisis that I began to give in to my creative/wild nature. I began to understand why I didn’t fit all the time and why it was causing me to be depressed and unsettled. I was trying to tame my “wildness” instead of letting go and running with the wind. I was trying to please people instead of being who I was created to be. This was a revelation that changed my life.

When we moved to NYC, I knew that my battle with my curls was over! It’s so humid, and I’m now spending time in subway tunnels that feel like saunas. No! No matter how many products I use, I can no longer hold back the curls. So, instead I decided to nourish my curls, care for them, condition them, and help them do what they naturally do. That’s what I’ve done with my creative self. I’ve nourished it, fed it, taken care and protected it over the past decade.

A few days ago, I stumbled on the picture of me above, taken when I was about 3 years old. I looked at her and thought, “Hey, I know you! I miss you!”  The curls are a metaphor. They are my wild side, my creative self, my messy self that can’t be tamed. Allowing myself to become an artist has led me back to that curly haired little girl who colored on the wall, only now I don’t have to blame “Susie.” It’s taken me 47 years to find that little girl again, but I’m so glad I did!

12 thoughts on “Becoming Me

  1. 40 does seem to be a turning point in letting go of trying to fit in and fitting in with oneself naturally. It gets even better, and NY helps it along, that’s where I turned 40 and went through my own crisis. Onward and upward Shelby!
    PS, my mom kept trying to turn my straight hair into Shirley Temple curls when I was little. LOL

    • Jessica, once my mom put my hair in pin curls and I had little gold ringlets just like Shirley Temple. I cried and cried! You’re right, NYC does help. Everyone here is so unique and it seems for the first time in my life that I can just blend in. I really do love it!

  2. I’m a blue button-down shirt, khaki slacks, penny loafers wearing sort of square and boring guy who blends in quite well with the world around me, but even at that, I’d notice an easy to look at gal like you anywhere. God bless you.

  3. I have loved those curls since the day I met you and am so glad your embarrassing them. They are part of you, and are a beautiful wild unique asset.

    • Thank you Meaghan! You were right about the curls and I should have let go sooner! We need to plan your trip to NYC!

  4. Love your story, Shelby!! I think creative people do have a true wild side…. we just have to find it again like you did! Makes me want to dig deep and hopefully find a wilder me! Wish me luck! Love your curly hair, by the way!

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