2015 is my year when it comes to the Chinese calendar.
I am a sheep. Or a goat, depending what calendar you have.
An animal described by many as “gentle mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, and brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice”.
And that’s just one quote, there are dozens online proclaiming the amazingness of each individual sign. The website I lifted the above quote from gives you everything from preferred careers, preferred mates (both friendly and intimate) and things that are lucky like colours, numbers and flowers; as well as things, people and places that aren’t (the southwest of a country is unlucky, seriously!).
Now, according to some Chinese, one’s birth year is considered unlucky; which makes me both morose and tetchy when I see what I have planned in 2015.
Because this year is something else.
So it might be unlucky, but it is something else as well. Just as 2003 was something else (the last time my year pinged on the galactic register).
2003 was the year I rapidly about-faced midway through my English Masters and left the university to enrol in nursing school. Unlike 2015, which has been meticulously planned down to the letter, this was more a: apply to nursing school – get interviews – get accepted – quit Masters – relocate to London. All of this taking place in the space of 4 months between Easter and the summer bank holiday. Such a timeline still makes me pause; to this day I can’t quite fathom how fast I got my butt in gear logistically. I guess this is another example of how much I can achieve if I am properly motivated.
But now my life is moving again. Like some kind of steampunk powered Rubik cube I’m upsetting the apple cart, turning off the beaten path and doing my best Clint Eastwood impression, trying to stop being the peppermint with the hole.
Because at times that’s how I feel.
Society adores its stereotypes, its labels, its quick-draw insinuations. I’ve often thought the media was to blame for the recent rise of these condemnations, but the more I see in reality television, the more I think this ‘smoking-gun’ was with us the whole time. We’ve always been quick to launch opinions of others; it’s just that ever since the first series of Big Brother hit Channel 4 back in the year 2000, we’ve now had permission from society to freely voice them.
And we have.
And that makes me feel hollow. Because I don’t want my personality on display, dissected for a soundbite, especially when I don’t feel enough to accurately declare that I understand what makes me who I am.
I am a nurse.
I am British.
I am Jewish.
I am a woman.
I am attracted to both sexes (“bisexual”).
I am a daughter.
I am a college graduate.
I don’t like green food.
I have mild dysfluency [stutter].
These are just 9 mandatory characteristics I have thought up as I sit here. Some are straightforward; if you have seen a picture of me you can determine things such as my skin-colour or the fact that I obviously have parents. Some are dangerous to say aloud in certain regions of the world (religion and sexuality) because they challenge the status quo. Some you wouldn’t discover unless you spoke to me in question and others still you wouldn’t be privy to unless I trusted you enough to open up and speak aloud.
Those last things are not listed above.
And yet still these traits do not define me. They are add-ons, characteristic additions wrapped around my identity like strips of papier-mâché covering the balloon inside. Hardening and supporting the weight of what lies within: a hard outer cover, yet beneath it all still a hollow shell.
I am not ashamed of these traits, yet I still feel the hole at my core, a void that cannot be filled in or plastered over with a label. An emotional cold-star that burns and freezes simultaneously, powering my desire and my drive while, at the same time, needing to be nurtured, and vehemently protected from the potential negativity that might be poured upon it should it be revealed to the world.
We’re more complex than the world wants us to be. Every one of us.
From Bruce Jenner to Princess Alice.
Both of these human beings are quick to incite opinion from others. And yet 99.999% of those commenting, either on the street or in the trash mags (as our family calls them) has zero contact with either person
You are talking about things you know nothing about, and it is accepted as worthwhile opinion.
Bruce Jenner is now transsexual but he* is both breaking down barriers as well as confusing the celebrity obsessed public that loves to rate, and ridicule, his family and transsexuals in general. Because he has clout, and is upper middle class, white and connected he doesn’t fit into the expected pigeonhole transsexuals inhabit in western society. That of the tragic outcast, sexworker, negative love interest to the popular hero. He won’t end up on shows like Jerry Springer, enduring a braying audience and violent pantomime antics all promoted for the sake of ratings. Nor does his family have financial difficulties like many other families, so his journey towards his own idea of womanhood won’t be blighted with costly loans and medical bills. It is a virtual paradox, a situation both honest and true to his own emotional well-being, but at the same time unrealistic and alien to many transgendered, given the struggles the majority of them face compared to the ease and opportunity offered to Jenner, not to mention the media’s seemingly accepting and positive portrayal of him.
Princess Charlotte, the newest member of the British Royal Family and fourth in line to the British throne, is commented on in both broadsheets and redtops over pictures showing her “latest oufit”. The fabric, little more than a christening gown given the fact that she’s barely a fortnight old, is discussed and dissected with the fervour of New York fashion week. Why? Because, like her mother, she is a woman and in therefore in the public eye how she looks is the primary concern for her existence. What she says or why she says it is irrelevant to her popularity. She is, in a sense, a royal insurance policy, and like all policies, until such time as she is needed she will be endured because society demands it. Nothing more.
Okay, I admit I’m not a monarchist, but there is still a nugget of truth there that few media outlets would admit.
Both examples here are perceptions of reality. And yet everyone is more than just what society perceives them to be. This is something the likes of Instagram and Twitter have yet to fully grasp.
They see the papier-mâché but they cannot penetrate the core. Yet some people take such external wallpaper as reality, which can be so dangerous because it influences lives into believing the false reality is the real one.
I can’t give all the answers, not for the world or for myself.
I think this opinion of perception, reality, social media and self-reflection should all be taken with a heavy pinch of salt.
And a stop, if just to pause.
Because at times I think the drive I have, the one to figure out how to comfort that burning star inside me is the only thing that keeps me going. Yet there are other times when the starsigns and numerology are nothing more than astrological hearsay and adopted foreign culture. Something projected and adopted by this country of individuals and immigrants as a cool and trendy alternative to the traditional.
And as usual, with everything these days, the truth will often lie somewhere in between.
*Bruce Jenner has not stated publicly his explicit intents to change his name nor his pronouns. Until he decides to I will continue referring to him in the appropriate manner.