I do firmly believe that each of us has an animal in our bellies, gnawing at our insides and trying desperately to get out. I guess that’s what you’d call passion, but the animal is the image I get when I’m thinking of how it feels.
My animal has always been pretty forceful and well, ridiculous. In elementary school my friends loved it, but as I got older and didn’t mature out of my silliness, I began to feel self-conscious of it. After a while, it wasn’t as much fun to be the subject of confused looks because, as much as I hated to admit it, I did care what people thought, and I knew what they were thinking when I ran off laughing after yelling something strange in their face. Crazy.
They didn’t understand me, and while I felt I was truly expressing the animal inside my belly by doing these things, I couldn’t help but wish it had something a little more normal to say.
I was watching Mary Poppins today, and when Dick Van Dyke was making ridiculous faces and singing his “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary” song, something finally clicked. Mary Poppins was the first real-people movie I ever watched, I remember, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a close second, which also stars Dick Van Dyke. I was raised on this brand of humor – the goofy, the funny faces, and the simple laughs – and so this is what I return to, always. Always. I feel like I’ve gotten it from my dad, the compulsion to add a bit of comic relief to every remotely mundane, tense, or awkward situation. I see him do it all the time and I find myself doing it too. I feel like the only explanation is that we simply love to laugh. Our last name is Laughlin, for goodness sake. Since I am of the Dick Van Dyke camp of humor, I think that often a lot of what I do and what I find funny is lost on the people around me. It happened throughout middle and high school – no matter how hard I tried to control that beast in my belly, I would eventually relent and it would claw its way out with its silly faces and corny jokes, making the coolest kids feel uncomfortable and superior, once again.
I’ve found that the people I love the most are the ones who love that beast, who find it endearing. I think that in a way, I’ve had it tough because even if I would find someone who appreciates it, I would have to move away and start over again. Needless to say a lot of my jokes hit the floor with a deafening clang. Whatever guys, I think I’m hilarious.
BUT, I was thinking today that for the first time in…I don’t know, seven years, I feel as if I am in the exact right place. Last night affirmed that – it was my sorority’s semi-formal, and we all met up at a friend’s apartment beforehand. I walked in and everyone looked back at me, and there wasn’t a single face in that room that I didn’t love. So yes, I could hop around the room in my pretty dress with a blanket wrapped around my waist because I really, really wanted to sit cross-legged. Everywhere.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I feel lucky. I feel happy. I love that you all can appreciate what I’m doing here, whether it’s playing banjo in the hallway without pants on or flapping my coat sleeves yelling, “I’m an Alex-Bird!” Because by god, that’s what’s inside of me. And if I can find someone who loves that, well, high fives all around.