I pleaded. I begged. I whined. I felt I would die when I was told there was no money for a jacket. New tennis shoes, yes. I needed those but a jacket I did not need. And if I did need it, it would not be madras plaid.
“But you don’t understand,” I said.
“No, you don’t understand,” my mother said. “There’s no money. Babysit. Save your money. Maybe then.”
I hadn’t realized this overwhelming need for a madras plaid jacket until after my August birthday. I could have asked for it then. It was after that time the girls at church were talking about what kind they had gotten for school. I knew I was toast.
My grandmother thought she was helping. “Maybe for Christmas.” But Christmas was months away and this was September, the start of high school. I needed this jacket. It would be a statement that I had arrived. I was somebody.
First day of school and a sea of plaid. Except for one. I just knew I stood out like a sore thumb. I was the odd one. When anybody laughed, I was sure they were laughing because I didn’t have a madras plaid jacket.
I survived that fall. And at Christmas, true to her word, Grandma got me the jacket. It was already out of style by Christmas. Everyone was getting something else—the latest madras plaid or some other fad.
Actually, I wore that jacket for years. And I did get laughed at for wearing something so “totally last year”. I didn’t care. I loved it. Yellow, red, green plaid, garishly unbelievable as I look back on it now.
The madras plaid jacket taught me a few things about life.
First, a tenth grader won’t die if they don’t have the latest fad.
Second, life does not revolve around madris plaid jackets (only the economy does).
Third, finding your own style may happen by chance but when you find it, go with it.
In high school, it was all about the latest fad. Now, I wear what is comfortable. I sometime find myself slipping over into imitation, but now it comes in a more sinister form called envy.
When I find that rising up, I call it what it is and try to beat the monster into submission by the realization that in order to “have” what I am envying it would mean giving up time, money or resources that I want to spend on something else.
Imitation comes, I believe, when we have nothing of ourselves. I am nothing if not myself. But how do I find who I am?
I realized that looking to the masses of people around me would not help me discover it.
On the horizontal line, I am the same as everyone else. It is on the vertical, that reaches toward heaven, that I start to become different. The closer I get to Him, the more I know of myself. My giftings, my purpose, my vision becomes clearer.
Though I may never know myself completely, I have learned that I must be me and no one else. Most of the time, I know when I am trying to be someone else.
The rest of the time, I am myself—a uniquely created whole, healthy, happy woman of God.
Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson