In Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now, Discover Your Strengths (ever since I started hanging around business people, I am now given these self-improvement books to read), he talks about how, in order to transition from childhood to adulthood, our child brains must lose billions of synaptic connections in order for our personalities to refine and the brain to focus its energies developing the strongest traits. Buckingham writes:

“Losing connections isn’t something to be concerned about. Losing connections is the point.

Initially, nature gives you more connections than you will ever need because during those first few years, you have a great deal to soak up. But soaking up is all you are doing. You are not yet making sense of your world. You can’t because with this abundance of connections you are overwhelmed by so many signals from so many different directions. To make sense of your world you will have to shut out some of this noise in your head.” (p.47)

I read this passage as the Piccadilly tube train rocketed me southwards towards my destination. It caused me to reflect upon the experiences and life lessons of this past year. Losing connections has an instant negative connotation, at least that’s where my mind leaps. Loss means less, right?

I’ve had a lot of noise in my head. I’ve also lost a great deal this year. I never thought I’d read a business-oriented book that reflected personal introspection.

Losing aspects of my life has freed up space for new ideas to imbibe me. Aside from all the introspection, I’ve changed aspects of my outer image reinforcing my shift. Three weeks ago, I went to my usual hairstylist and asked her for a gamine, pixie cut. Being culturally Korean with English as her second language, my stylist didn’t understand what pixie meant. After consulting a book full of different hairstyle photographs, and pointing out the style, she cut my bobbed hair very short. So short that it seemed my face was too full in the mirror, too disarmingly exposed. As I stepped outside of the hair salon, a brisk winter chill reminded me just how much hair I’d lost, and I quickly donned my beret. It snugly covered my entire hairline. In the days following, people remark at how the new cut suited me. I hadn’t had this cut since I was a dyke in my twenties, and now, the short hair took on a different connotation. I wasn’t brazenly defiant at the world. I cut my hair and still felt feminine. Best of all, it was all but zero maintenance.

I also spent a day sifting through my wardrobe. Somehow the second round of pulling out clothes that didn’t match me colour-wise felt harder this time, because I’d already fleeced my entire collection. But I put my emotions aside and the thinking, “But it’s okayyyy,” and just disposed of those that did not flatter my skin tone. The second run thinned things out alright and I felt raw and flayed, just as when I’d stepped out into the cold after my haircut. The next morning, I went to dress myself, and due to the slim nature of what I could choose, task of mixing and matching no longer felt like a thinking chore. Each piece of my minimal and honed wardrobe went together in surprisingly new combinations. Each new future item of clothing I’m considering is seen as an investment piece now, not “just because it was on sale” or “It’ll do” or “why not?” I am refining a look, a look that’s entirely my personality’s. Finally, my wardrobe is becoming one and not the jumbled assortment of clothing: part Southern California shorts and tee-shirts, and part London bundled-up thickness.

The noise in my head: it was channelling my mother. The thought of needing her to understand me, that need that had driven me for at least fourteen years – an energy that caused us endless, confusing arguments and frustrated phone calls – I finally realised it was energy I’d fuelled in a misguided direction. I accept her and love her, but to do that I know now that she may never comprehend me, nor the things I pursue, and the manner in which I take on tasks. I only wish my mother would relax in the fact that I’m more than capable of taking care of myself. To reiterate Buckingham’s thoughts, I’ve shut out my mother’s noise and made sense of…myself.

And oh, what a feeling of liberation. A large space in my brain freed up. The uncluttering makes way for new ideas and new thoughts, with which to strike out at the world. Mother, do not worry for me. I have found myself.

Erica, 34, London UK

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