Earlier this week I posted about the Traveling Red Dress Project. If you follow me on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve been getting a little swamped with it. I thought I’d at least try and explain why I’ve been “spamming” you.
While I’m a huge fan of fabulous dresses in general, this project means a lot more than just dressing up to me. It’s been a wake up call. Up until now I’ve been fairly cautious with this blog. I’ve been nervous to express myself too much, to address anything much more controversial than the weather. I started this blog as a way to encourage traffic to my business, and so I’ve tried to keep the tone professional. But I’m finding that instead of professional, I’m toning soulless and dull instead. I want to stop hiding behind my posts and actually have a voice.
Jenny Lawson, who started the Traveling Red Dress Project regularly speaks her mind. She openly talks about her struggles with depression, anxiety and self harm. She encourages others through their struggles and seems to regularly end up as the center of a storm of social media-fueled goodwill. The Traveling Red Dress Project is only one example. She’s a huge inspiration to me.
Part of why the project has struck such a deep chord with me is Jenny’s bravery. She is open about her ongoing battle with depression when it would be much easier to hide it. I’ve seen people in my life battle with depression; I’ve even lost some of them to suicide. It is a terrifying and debilitating disease. It lies to you and cripples you and makes curling into a small ball in a dark corner seem like the most viable option for making it through the day. That Jenny keeps writing, and keeps being funny as all hell, makes me want to jump up and down, cheer, and send her a cookie. Or maybe something non-baked, since we all know I take short cuts when I cook.
Every single one of us has scars. Some of them are visible and some aren’t. Most of us don’t like to talk about them. It can be easier to pretend we’ve never had hurts or disappointments and our lives are perfect. To hide in that dark corner, in our curled up position, weathering the storm. But talking about our pain can lead to incredible, breath-takingly wonderful things. Things like the Traveling Red Dress Project.
A dress and a photo shoot may seem like a silly thing to make a difference in a person’s life, but I’ve experienced it myself. The dress isn’t the important part; it’s only a tool to take you to the important part.
Every picture in this post has helped me to make it through. Through small slights and crushing heartbreaks. All of them are at least 7 years old, but they’ve become a huge part of me (enough so that I’m still wanting to show them off all these years later.) I mentioned in my photography post last Saturday that my best friend, Megan, is usually the one behind the camera. These are her pictures.
We didn’t take the pictures with the specific intention of empowering ourselves, that just came along as a happy accident. We lived together in the dorms and it just started as a way for Megan to practice her photography.
The costumes started out simply. A dress. A cape. An old Renaissance fair costume. But as the pictures came back, we wanted to push it further. I put leaves in my hair, lights in my hair, sticks in my hair. We painted my skin with poster paint and we glued things to my face. We wandered around campus and made friends, startled passers-by and scared potheads (who then bought us pizza once they recovered from their shock.)
The pictures started as a whim, but they became life rafts. They were a visual reminder of a me that wasn’t defined by classes, or first dates (or last dates), or bank accounts, or groceries.
The Traveling Red Dress Project does the same thing for women (and men) around the world. It gives them a tool to step outside of their lives where they struggle with depression, divorce, discrimination and disease and remind themselves that they aren’t defined by their trials. That, despite their battles, they can be beautiful and vibrant and daring.
The picture above is from the last pixie shoot I’ve done with Megan. We graduated from college and moved apart, we each got married and I had a baby. Things got busy and we didn’t prioritize getting dressed up in funny outfits and running around in the woods with a camera. I forgot how wonderful it used to make me feel, until Jenny posted about the Traveling Red Dress Project.