The liberation of anonymity

For most of my life, I’ve been a pretty self-conscious person.  I’m constantly judging myself, and I imagine (much more than is probably true) that other people are judging me, too.  I have spent years of my life evaluating every little thing that I did, trying to see if it was “right” and adjusting it if it wasn’t.  I spent many years trying incredibly hard to be, do or say what I was “supposed” to or what was “expected” or what (I thought, probably incorrectly) would make people like me — I denied who I really was a lot.

I’ve come a long way.  Part of it is just growing up, part of it is the intense work I continue to do on myself to grow and have more peace.  A lot of it is becoming a parent.  Becoming a mom, and really accepting that what I do, so much more than what I say, will shape how my kids turn out, has provided more motivation for me to improve myself than anything else I’ve ever experienced.  I know that if I deny who I am, if I worry more about pleasing the vast, faceless masses than I do about being happy, my kids will do the same.  And that would be tragic.  So, I work on it.  I’m learning to ask for what I need, take ownership of my opinions, lighten up A LOT and be in the moment.  (I hope these lessons rub off on my kids.)  I act silly, I ask for help when I need it, I try not to take myself (or my failures or successes) too seriously.  (I’ve also really embraced the idea that I’m just not cool, so even if I tie myself in knots trying to “do it right”, I’m probably not going to manage it, so I might as well enjoy myself.)

But living in Vienna is helping, too.  It’s a huge city, and we know almost no one here.  We also know that we’re probably violating custom and etiquette here nearly every day, so what’s a few more times?  There’s an incredible freedom in being anonymous.  This liberation allows us to do things easily and without thinking — things that we might have done anyway at home, but with much more awareness of our appearance or concern about the audience.  I’ve laid down in the middle of a city square to get a good angle on a picture of a statue.  We’ve danced in the rain and sung (loudly) while walking down the street.  Just tonight I danced — silly and exuberant, while wearing running clothes — with Benjamin to some wonderful street musicians playing on Vienna’s answer to New York’s 5th Avenue.

This is the way I want to be.  I know that following my heart and doing what feels right is going to make me much happier than worrying about what someone thinks of what I’m doing.  I know it will give me more wonderful moments with my kids, and I hope it sets a good example for them.  I know that this is a way in which I’ve been permanently changed – now that I’ve tried these things, and seen how little it matters what anyone else thinks, I think I’ll be able to hang on to this . . . even if someone I know might be watching.

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