Before I was married I wore many hats, enough for at least five wardrobe changes a day. Each of them expressed different parts of me – all my layers. But, somehow, at some point, I woke up in a box one day. I’m still not sure how I got there because I’ve always hated small spaces, but that’s not really important. What’s important is that I got out.
There wasn’t room in that box for any of my hats, but I still thought of them often. Like hearing a song or smelling a smell – I survived on my nostalgia.
In my dreams I took turns trying them on.
I was the girl with hearts in her eyes and fairytales on her mind. The idealist blind to the reality of just how brutal love can be when it’s not the right kind of love. I wanted to keep this hat on forever because every girl should believe in fairytales.
I was the party girl making questionable choices and having a blast doing so. The girl who just wanted to have fun. An awesome hat, until the hangover kicked in.
I was the girl who was unapologetically unfiltered and opinionated. The girl who sometimes offended but always meant well. The one who didn’t apologize for her feelings or ask anyone to apologize for theirs, because she knew feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are.
I was the girl who wanted to change the world and actually believed she could. Feeding hungry mouths, asking names of the nameless, shaking dirty hands, hugging empty arms whose souls were even emptier, loving people who’d been told they were unlovable. I was the girl who rallied crowds of goodness and begged for boxes of generosity. The girl who put her money where her mouth was and made a difference where it fucking mattered.
I was the independent girl hellbent on the notion that it’s okay not to share every passion or experience with the one you love. The girl who saw it as healthy to have things and parts independent of each other – who only wanted to add to someone, not take away.
Of course when I’d wake up I was back in that box where there was only room for one girl – the girl I was expected to be.
And there is nothing more toxic to a relationship than expectations. We say I love you, but only if you’re who and what I want you to be. We say I accept you but only if you meet my conditions. We silence all the parts of each other we don’t like. But we don’t really because they’re still there begging to be seen even when they don’t feel pretty. There is nothing true about love when we try to control it, because real love can’t be controlled or manipulated or stifled. Real love doesn’t take over or take away. It encourages and supports the things that came before the relationship, even and especially when those things are independent of us. Love doesn’t seek to be the center of someone’s universe, it only seeks to be a part of it. True love isn’t asking someone to take off their hats and it certainly isn’t putting someone in a box they don’t fit in. It’s making space for even more hats – some you’ll wear together and some you’ll wear apart.
During the last year, I climbed out of that box. After stretching my legs, I gathered all my hats, dusted them off, and hung them back up in my closet. I’m slowly starting to wear all of them again and sometimes in one day. It feels good.
And when love finds me again, there will be only one expectation – that we settle somewhere with enough space for both our hat collections.