xxviii

28. I kind of can’t believe I’m actually 28 now, even though for some odd reason I’ve felt 28 all year. Now that I am, I’ll probably start thinking I’m 23 or something. ‘Course.

But here I am, finally, at the halfway point between the start of this blog and the day I turn 30: Still Learning; Still Growing; Still ReBranding.

Since that time, I’ve developed a little habit of making a post on each birthday. And this time, I hope I’m coming atcha with something good to say.

These last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of camouflage. It’s not incredibly original – it’s a trendy pattern, one that Insta-models have been adopting in their Fall Wardrobe posts and real country boys ‘n gals have been wearing every hunting season since 1972. It’s a uniform for our military, a way to stay “safe” in more natural and wild environments. It was rebel wear when Ashlee Simpson wore it in 2004 and now it’s become a tough way to balance out a more muted and elegant style for those of us who don’t fit in any of the categories above. I like it.

But camouflage isn’t just a pattern. It’s a way of life. It’s the way we paint our faces to cover up the flaws we don’t want revealed. It’s the way we dress in shades of black and white and tan rather than standing out in shades of purple and teal. And it’s the way we try to hide our feelings and our emotions, whether it’s a picture perfect roll of photos on our social media feeds or an attempt at hiding how we really feel about the way our significant other leaves water-soaked pieces of lemon in the sink. (Trust me, I’m guilty of all of these. I knew there was a reason the pattern appealed.)

So why talk about it? Why is this relevant? And what does it have to do with the start of another year? Well, hang with me here, because at the end of the day, the thing that ties all of those aforementioned items together is the fact that despite our greatest efforts, we can’t hide. We can’t hide anything. Even though we fool ourselves into thinking we’re really good at it. The makeup will sweat off or wash away in the rain, our personalities will hopefully shine through our carbon copy wardrobes, and our faces will reveal everything to those who know us best.

If you focus really hard among the trees, you will see the hunter move behind the deer.

Because despite its many uses, camouflage isn’t always the perfect solution. It’s fallible. And the people who still love you when the camouflage wears off, well, those are the ones worth keeping.

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Take a look at this picture here. I’m sure you can see the difference in the layers. This torn piece of wallpaper revealed a stark white wall – you could see it from across the room. But we dabbed on about five different colors of paint, with tiny brushes and rag dabs and voila! This right here is the close-up – it’s the truth. But you’ve gotta lean in to see it. You’ve got to take the time. Those people worth knowing will do that – they’ll challenge you to let them see you up close. You’ve got to be brave enough to reveal it. You’ve got to be honest about what isn’t nearly as perfect as you’d like it to be.

Just like the image at the top of this post – I am the wallpaper. I thought I looked flawless on the small screen of my phone. That’s why I chose to use it here. But once it blew up on my computer screen, I can still see the things I wish I couldn’t – the lines, the spots. But I’m keeping it there anyway, because I like what it says. And overall, I still like how I look – which is new for me.

So why camouflage? Why am I preaching like this when I should just be celebrating? Well, I bring all of this to light because it was brought to my attention, upon preparing for this 28th birthday, that no one knows what I really want. Translation: They don’t who I am. And heck, do I know who I am?

What this conundrum forced me to realize is that I’ve camouflaged myself so well over the years that maybe I haven’t quite let people in to know the real me. I mean, it’s one thing to scroll through Pinterest and create a private board for our own inspirations….but not sharing that with anybody? How will we ever get to know one another? How will anyone get to know me?

I think maybe we’re all camouflaging ourselves at least a bit, in one way or another. I follow too many accounts on Instagram for fashion inspiration and the truth is…they’re all wearing the same pieces. The same bags, the same sweaters, the same faux leather leggings. Their makeup looks the same, their hair is styled in the same fashion. The only thing that’s different is the background behind them and the title of their blogs – and even those leaves very little in understanding who some of these women are.

I may wish I looked like some of them, but that’s not who I want to be. That’s not what I want this to be.

I want to be remembered as someone who is unique. Someone with conviction. Someone who has something to say. Someone who rocked a camouflage jacket but made it her own. Someone who allows herself to both love and hate country music at the same time. Someone who doesn’t have to be defined by genre. I want to remain that girl whose walls were covered with concert posters and personal photos and knick knacks and pieces of jewelry collected over years of travel and varying interests.

I had a friend once comment on how unique my home was – I told her all she had to do to get that look was just be her: to scatter pieces of herself around her space. And I’m afraid, as I’ve embarked on this new journey in my life, that I may have forgotten to do that.

The ‘real me’ is living in my own head, outwardly sharing a home and a life with someone else. And day after day, it becomes easier to blend. To throw on something that can get sweaty and dirty and just get moving. To keep things muted and neutral. Agreeable.

The pieces of me are still scattered about, but I’m ashamed of them. I’m confused by them. Overwhelmed, feeling like something must go, something must be eliminated, everything must be pared down. I’ve become so consumed with defining myself that I’ve forgotten how to.

All of that’s a lot easier than taking the time to define my brand or put together an outfit that expresses how inspired I was by my recent discoveries of Bobbie Gentry, Nikki Lane or Jenni Earle.

But not this year. Not this year, 28.

I bought at least 3 hand-dyed and designed bandannas in the last couple weeks. And I’m wearing each and every one.

Will you join me?

Because this year, we are going to experiment. We are going to fly. We are going to take those inner influences and embrace them, shout them out, share them, be them. And we are going to do it in such a way that we cannot be confused with the others. This year, 28, we will be us. We will take all those pieces and find a way to put them back together again: whether it be dainty gold rings and a diamond necklace or a patterned bandanna wrapped around our neck with shitkickin’ boots in tow.

“In archetypal symbolism, clothing represents persona, the first view the public gains of us. Persona is a kind of camouflage which lets others know only what we wish them to know about us, and nothing more. But there is an older meaning to persona….one known to healers. The persona is not simply a mask to hide behind, but rather a presence which eclipses the mundane personality. In this sense, persona or mask is a signal of rank, virtue, character, and authority. It is the outward significator, the outward display of mastery. ”

Clarissa Pikola Estes, Ph.D. , Women Who Run With the Wolves

We should be masters of ourselves. We should know ourselves. And we should have that one thing that makes everyone else go, “That is SO Heather”. Am I Right?

So what’s with all the camouflage, y’all? Shouldn’t we just be loving our wild and weird and quirky selves? Shouldn’t we be finding every way and reason to share that, whether its in our clothing or our conversation? We should stop hiding. We should stop trying to look like everyone else. We should just be in love. With ourselves.

And that right there – that is my goal for 28. That is my goal for 2019. At the very least, that’s my goal before 30 (because I assume it’s going to take a minute to get it right). In the meantime, I wish you all well. I’m gonna go eat some cake now.