A couple of weekends ago I decided to clear out my wardrobe. I had acquired a ton of new clothes and thought it would be good to get rid of a few oldies. so I called a close friend over one afternoon to keep me company as I embarked on the decluttering process.
I was excited to finally tidy my closet- which in the past couple of months had become indistinguishable from the crash site of a mini tornado- but the more I heaped up the clothes the more I realised that a lot of these were not necessarily clothes I hated but ones I hadn’t worn in a while. And without warning I felt a deep sense of loss.
I started noticing the shift in my internal tidings when I started buying colourful button down shirts and polo necks- a deviation from the dark t-shirts and sweats that had been my blueprint for the past five or so years. I didn’t have enough “professional” clothes to wear at the office and I was getting tired of wearing jackets with the same black and blue fitted tees and decent pants.
Every time I bought a new article of clothing I’d try it on and look at myself in the mirror for such long periods of time, wondering when I became this girl who liked button downs, and most importantly when I started preferring them to my tees. I know it’s so banal and anti-climatic but that’s when I realised I had started to change. And maybe more importantly it’s when the feelings of guilt of letting go of the person I used to be started to sink in.
It wasn’t only the clothes. It was also other subtle things; Agreeing to recite poetry when four years ago I had sworn to never grace a stage again; Realising that I didn’t mind going out and socialising as much as I used to; Allowing myself to be bad at things I enjoyed and accepting I probably wouldn’t become good at them ’cause I wouldn’t put in the work; Sitting across someone I thought I’d love for a very long time- even in the littlest ways- and wondering when I had started to let go and how I never noticed; No longer doing headstands four times a day; Giving myself tiny compliments for accomplishing tasks and so on.
One day I looked in the mirror and said “huh, we look quite pretty today” and I was instantly shocked by the genuineness with which I meant it.
And yet, like the change in wardrobe why did this casual compliment to myself and everything else seem like a betrayal to the person I was. I actually felt shaken and as I looked my reflection in the eyes I wondered who was this girl before me.
I had spent a better part of my life indulging in self loathing and as crazy as sounds, it felt wrong to say something nice about myself so offhandedly and actually mean it. In the back of my head, the Tamanda that had been holding the ropes for the longest was losing control of the reigns, and a new one- one so different from the previous- was trying to wrestle her for them and I was terrified: Terrified because she was winning and she was someone that I had never been or known. When you’ve been one thing for too long it’s almost as if you’re stabbing yourself in the back when you start to become somebody else.
There’s been a lot going on in my life and I guess an identity crisis was long overdue. When my friend left after the whole decluttering ordeal, I sat in the pile of to-go-clothes and picked up a particular shirt I had loved so so much that I thought I’d wear until it was threadbare, and cried into it. Not because I was giving it away but because I knew the girl who used to adore wearing it was slowly slipping from my grasp.
Change- even the good kind- is such an uncomfortable process. Beloved, even a caterpillar must almost completely digest itself in its cocoon before becoming a butterfly. If you’re lucky you don’t notice it happening. You close your eyes and one day you wake up and you can’t even trace how you became the person you are now. That’s rarely the case. Most times you can feel the chasm between who you are now and who you were before become bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper. It’s grimy and uneasy and even scary. But it’s also necessary and most likely inevitable.
These days I sit with myself at the crossroads of who I was before and who I’m becoming and try to remember that the caterpillar, the goo in the cocoon and the butterfly are all true versions of the same thing. The common thread is there somewhere and that despite everything else, at the core I’m still me. Maybe if I revel in this long enough I’ll learn to accept that metamorphosis isn’t betrayal to myself and that it is okay to let the old me go.