Netflix and Chell

What does one do when her body feels like it’s been hit by a 12-passenger van (I know precisely how that feels, another story, another day) but should be working on her website? Netflix* with some sparkling wine, thai food, and a viewing of Coco, which after a third time, still makes me ugly cry. Don’t judge.

Still not ready for bed, I searched for another movie and landed on one of my all-time favorite films. Do me a favor and watch Dead Poets Society again. Get a few friends together and watch it. Does it strike you differently than it did 20, almost 30 (!) years ago? It seems more relevant than ever, and to me personally, it resonates even more deeply as it did when I was a teen.

Mr. Keating’s poetry lessons are words to live by! The world is thirsty for, and sorely lacking, more leaders like him. Sadly the brilliant Robin Williams’ self-inflicted death adds a layer of tragedy to this film but the message in the storytelling still holds so urgently true. When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and said (or sang!), “now is the time to seize the day”? For all my Gen Z friends and beyond, Carpe Diem is like YOLO’s older, wiser cousin, and is about making the most of the time we have on this earth.

Oh, how some of the systems in place can inhibit us from being our true selves, setting up those who live outside the tiniest of boxes to fail. Why do some fear the glorious self-expression of another? Because they can’t accept it within themselves? A part of us must surely die when we discover our own personal joy, our magic, but are absolutely prohibited from accessing and sharing those gifts.

The literal death of Neil Perry, the character played by Robert Sean Leonard, was unnecessarily tragic - there was no reason this life should ever have ended that way. All I want to do is scream “You do you boo!! Live your best LIFE!!” That’s all Neil wanted, and his joy in sharing those gifts only enhanced the experience of those around him, as shown by the standing ovations and pride in the eyes of his schoolmates. He found his bliss, his calling, but a father with his own agenda wasn’t about to let any son of his traipse around in a turtleneck and twiggy crown. He made sacrifices to get him into that school, dammit!

I wonder what difference an ounce of understanding would have made?

I’ve been lucky. My parents are the most loving, encouraging souls and have always supported my self expression. When I told them I was going to college to get a degree in theatre, giving up a full ride to a prestigious college to follow my passion at a small liberal arts women’s college, they said, go girl! Follow your dreams! When years later I said I was moving to New York to give it a go because if I never did I’d regret it, they, with brave faces (although terrified) said they were proud of me and would support me in every way they could.

I still remember that day, sitting on their bed, so scared that I would disappoint them with my decision, so terrified to leave them. But their steadfastness kept me strong and I knew that with the foundation of their support I could do anything, including making a life in the big city. Did this anecdote conjure up an image of a tweeny Chelley, overall clad with a scrunchie in hair? Incorrect! I was full on 27 at the time but nervous and scared, nonetheless.

The support of my parents never wavered, in fact they doubled down on it. A couple of years into this journey, I took a mini-break and moved back to Denver for about three months to recharge and recover. I didn’t know if I had it in me to go back but my Mother said something I will never forget. “I know you’re going to say no right away, but hear me out. Your Dad and I want to move back with you for three months. We’ll get a place, take care of everything and be there for you as you get back on your feet.”

Listen, my parents have the sweetest, kindest, most gentle souls you will ever encounter, the exact opposite of the often aggressive, intense energy you can find on the NYC streets. I immediately said “Absolutely not!”  (she knows me so well) and numbered off all the ways this was a terrible idea. I’m tough and even I could barely survive. How on earth would they?

Let me tell you I came around and those three months were some of the most precious of my life. I had missed them so much, and despite the troubles we had, like being awoken by the radiator’s ear-shattering clang every hour on the hour, to the crazy alley cat fight where one cat (rudely) threw the other one hard enough against the window that it shattered, their time in the city brought me a sense of groundedness and joy. I was so unbelievably proud of how they rose to the occasion. It’s amazing how a family’s love can transform any space you are in.

I should know better than to ever doubt my Mother, she is more connected to intuition than anyone I know. My gift back to my folks was asking them what the one experience was that they absolutely had to have in NYC. The Empire State Building? The Statue of Liberty? Naturally, as everyone’s first response always is when asked that question, they wanted to see the Dr. Oz show in person. See it they did, and folks, I ended up on the show that day with Dr. Oz giving me a foot scrub on national television.

All of this to say that life can go a couple of ways. We come to this earth with our own unique talents and passions. Denying them, to me, is like saying “Thanks God for the gifts and all, but my (insert authoritarian figure here) really wants me to be a (insert profession here), and well, it’s a pretty solid gig, so you can just keep them”. I find that so incredibly heartbreaking. What is the world missing out on because at some point someone told you it wasn’t safe to be yourself? Have you internalized this message so much that you won’t let yourself shine your light and fly? Do you remember a time in your life when you said no to your heart and yes to what you “should” do? Forging out into the hallway can seem impossible when you lack the support from those closest to you, but is it worth denying the essence of yourself to stay on a plan laid out before you? It’s never too late to stand up on that desk and speak your mind my lovelies!

Light in the Hallway

Find and hold tight to the people who love and support you at the most glorious expression of yourself.