In 2017, when I interviewed for the job I have now, the interviewer asked one of those standard questions for which I’m never properly prepared: What are three words you would use to describe yourself? It had been a pretty good interview thus far–we bonded over the fact that Star Wars is the only correct answer to the question, “What’s your favorite movie?” And really, what kind of job interview is it that asks you what your favorite movie is anyway? It was very relaxed, not quite casual, but easy in a way that few job interviews are. It was giving me a good vibe about the company, a place that already seemed like a good fit for my skills and interests. So I can’t be blamed for maybe being a little too relaxed when the notorious question came up.
I don’t remember the first two words I offered up in answer, probably some variation of “adaptable” and “quick learning”, qualities that have always served me well in whatever job I’ve held. I floundered for the third word, though. I should have had it ready, but I didn’t. Pragmatic. Creative. Organized. There were lots of options, but after a moment humming and hawing, what popped out was, “Magical.”
I’m telling this story now, because over the next few months I’m going to turn 50, my oldest child will graduate from college, and my youngest will graduate from high school. It’s a landmark year, across the boards, and I have been thinking a lot about how I want to face that transition, about who I want to be on the other side of it. I keep coming back to that word from my interview. Magical.
Because it was the first time this idea slipped out of me as something more than a poignant, unvoiced yearning in the deep hours of the night. That I could be someone magical.
What does it mean to be magical, though? I’m not necessarily talking about casting spells or setting up a pagan alter, though those are certainly things a magical person might do. I’m not talking “magical thinking” either, as defined by anthropologists, psychologists or self-help gurus. I don’t think you can manifest anything in this world just by thinking about it really hard, or wishing for it in the right way.
I do think there is magic in the world though, if you are aware enough to notice it. And I do think that we can access that magic to affect transformation in the world. Exactly how, and to what degree, I’m not always sure. On one level, we can all do magic, just by making something. The transformation of yarn into a blanket or sweater is a kind of magic, something I’ve done a lot of in the last year. I’ve transformed landscapes by taking pictures of them. And I can’t even count the number of worlds and people I’ve created since I was young–not people of flesh and bone, perhaps (though I have made two of those!), but are they any less real because they only live on paper, or in my head? They may not be obvious magic, like. say, turning someone into a newt with a wave of a wand, but they’re really much more practical sorts of magic. Maybe it’s because they’re so practical, so every day, that we just don’t recognized them as magic anymore.
To be completely frank, I have felt a thrill every time I’ve acknowledged my magical nature over the past year. When I was a pre-teen, I used to jokingly tell people that I was only half girl, but I was also half horse and half unicorn. I was only joking because of the math. But in the pressure-cooker of my teenage years, while I retained my love for the fantastic, I lost my sense of my own fantastic self. By the time it came back to me in my late 20s (a story that includes a digital Narnia and years of dreaming about overwhelming waves), I had learned too well how to live with the appearance of conventionality. I never gave up unicorns, but I learned to mask it with subtlety and misdirection. I mean, I’ve been Cartazon online for more than 15 years, but I doubt most people know that cartazon is a word for unicorn.
But 2017 was the Year of the Unicorn. Unicorns and unicorn-inspired products and art and food were everywhere, a cultural zeitgeist that peaked with Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappachino. While my personal brand of unicorn has little to do with sugar overloads and rainbow poop, it’s hard to escape when the universe starts shouting at you. So I have, gradually and with mindfulness towards how I think unicorns should be represented, begun to be a little more open about my unicorn-ness. I wear my sparkly unicorn necklace (a gift from a most precious friend) as often as possible. I crocheted a unicorn horn to wear to the office for Halloween. I bought a pink sweater emblazoned, hugely, with a hint of glitter, and wear it as often as weather permits.
And it feels good.
If someone remarks about me liking unicorns, I reply, “I AM a unicorn!” The twinkle in my eye probably makes them think I’m just making a joke, but in truth I’m just happy that I can acknowledge it.
Let me pause a moment to reassure you that I have not lost my mind. I don’t mean to imply, in any way, that I think I’m literally a unicorn. It’s a metaphor, a way to express a part of myself that is magical and transformative. Just wanted to make that clear.
The quest now becomes one of materialization. Having acknowledged my authentic, magical self openly, how do I express that on a continuing basis?
I don’t have concrete answers for that question right now, except that it’s a process. When I first lost my last job, one of the first things I did was redecorate my personal space, filling it with colors and objects that I love, and more intrinsically reflect who I am right now, not who I was ten years ago. I’m in the same process for my wardrobe, choosing to add garments that are more than just convenient and work-appropriate. (I’m fortunate that there’s a big romantic trend ongoing in fashion right now, but why aren’t there more skirts available??) I’d have lilac hair right now if my budget could afford the ongoing maintenance costs!
As I noted in my last post, I’ve lost touch with myself in the past few years, and embracing my magical nature is helping me reconnect in a very essential way. And since this blog in the past has served so ably as a tool of self-exploration and discovery, I am hoping to make use of it in such fashion again, to uncover and reveal the magical girl who’s always been inside. I don’t have any specific plans for what that means with regards to future content–I’m following an instinct here, and we’ll just have to see where it leads. In the meantime…