When I was growing up my family used to call me Tricia. In elementary school the kids called me Patricia. By the start of high school I was Trish. I was defining myself in those days and I decided that I liked the one syllable, straight-to-the-point, feminine and definitive version of my name. With Trish there was nothing left for interpretation.
I married for the first time a month before my 19th birthday. I was just about the same age as my daughter is today. I became Trish Watson for nearly ten years, even though the marriage only lasted nine months. As a child sex abuse survivor, I was happy to disconnect from the name I carried as a child and instead thought of Watson as my “grown-up” name. I went straight from Trish Watson to Trish George when I married my daughter’s father in 1997.
I often tell my daughter I wore a lot of black when I was in high school. I partied, drank and smoked a lot. I was working my way through trauma that I didn’t understand.
I started working full-time when I was 17 and was employed by major corporations in NYC in my teens and twenties: Revlon, American Express and Verizon. I would put on my business suit, go to work and play the role of “corporate Trish.” I liked knowing that people wouldn’t be able to connect my last name to my family in Brooklyn and somehow figure out who I really was. I was embarrassed, not so much by the assault I had experienced, but by the years of acting out which followed.
When I was 28 I finished my novel, “Chocolate Souffle,” under the pen name Trish Ahjel to keep my legal name separate from some of the content I wanted to address as a writer, and “Ahjel” is just a spelling variation of my middle name. Using a pen name allowed me to compartmentalize even further. Society teaches us that we have to have a particular image for some roles and a different image for others. We are not taught to be our whole and complete selves as we enter in and out of various spaces. We struggle to figure out what box we should fit into, and why we need a box anyway. I think that’s why so many of us struggle with authenticity. Is it okay to be ourselves with all of our flaws, or do we need to meet other’s perceptions of who we should be?
When I divorced in 2002, I raced back to my family name Roberts. With some self-help therapy I was able to understand that I had been running from myself. (I highly recommend The Courage to Heal books by Laura Davis, available on Amazon. I’m so grateful my sister gifted them to me. It was many more years before I found a competent therapist.)
In 2003 I had the pleasure of taking a photography class while working for Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. One of the students put a photo of his lover’s heavily blemished back on display. He said, “our beauty is in our imperfection.” That was one of the most striking bits of wisdom I’d ever heard, and I’ll never forget it. Our beauty is in our imperfection – it’s what makes us Real. Relatable. Authentic. Human.
I encourage you to love yourself. Not just the pretty, shiny parts of you, but also the dark, painful corners.
I encourage you to let air into places that you’ve kept closed and dusty for too long.
I encourage you to breathe deeply into your pain and into your healing.
And if you’re healed, or when you heal, I encourage you to create a soft place for others.
As we approach this next decade together, let’s dedicate ourselves to opening the closed doors in our minds and living our most honest and authentic life. It’s not easy to admit mistakes, flaws and imperfections. It’s not easy to work through trauma, past or present. But it does make us real, and real is beautiful.
Here’s to your realest, bravest, most authentic YOU in 2020!
I wish you all Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. This photo is just me feeling myself and my new starter locs. Watching them grow and change will be part of my journey in 2020. Definitely an exercise in acceptance, patience and transformation. If you’re looking for an opportunity to deepen your own authenticity, I have two offerings in January: “The Courage to Dream” workshop series at Tassili’s on Tuesdays @ 6:30pm https://honeybutterflyz.com/about and “Electronic Visionboarding Lunch” at Herban Fix on 1/11 @ 11:30am https://honeybutterflyz.com/e-visionboarding-lunch. I hope to see you soon!