I've been having this discussion with countless people lately where I share my theory that learning to be an adult - a happy, functioning one - is unlearning a lot of the bullshit that outside forces have put on you since you were a child. It's about learning to be a child again. Learning to be more essentially and purely you again.
In terms of behaviour and characteristics, I've been trying to revert to that kid who was the first to talk to the new person in school, who welcomed everyone, who wasn't judgemental in the least. In terms of tastes and internal struggles, I've been attempting to be freer, to allow myself to like what I like, feel what I feel and not apologise for it or hate myself for it.
And I have given up lying to myself about how much I love the colour pink.
As a child, I was a tomboy that climbed trees, fought on the schoolyard with the boys and had permanently scraped knees but I also had a perfectly organised Barbie Dreamhouse, made clothes for the Barbies that lived there, adored my baby dolls and was super-into princesses - particularly of the Disney variety. For a time, there was no distinct line separating these into two groups, as there is in the language and societal norms I would later adopt, they were merely things I liked and did. I was not defined by them in any way.
But, eventually (in fact, all too quickly), I began to take in and understand how people saw little girls, what they thought of our opinions and tastes. It didn't so much change how I saw myself but made me consider myself at all in the first place. It stopped me from blindly following my heart and imposed categories on things that had simply been before.
Boy. Girl. Tough. Silly. Them. Us.
When I began to get the impression that girls were somehow considered lesser - that "don't be such a girl", "you play like a girl", "you're alright for a girl" were insults, that girl = lesser - I became determined to prove people wrong. Sadly, that can seem to warrant an "us versus them" mentality. And this is where the patriarchy is truly toxic as it imposes labels and restrictions and turns us against each other.
But the other really tricky thing about our society is, that though I was a self-identified feminist from a very early age, I also was seduced by the lie of the "cool girl". I believed women and men were equal but I did not evade the messages laid out everywhere - no matter how innocent they seemed - that this was not true. At least, not in the eyes of others.
And so I became this torn creature that proclaimed that boys smelled and girls were better but rejected anything overly "girly". I internalised that misogyny and decided I could not like, or do, certain things as they were for other girls, girly girls, girls that were wimpy, not like me. I became one of those girls who would say "I'm not like other girls" - as if there were anything at all wrong with being like other girls.
As I got older, I began to wade through the nonsense. I saw that the "cool girl" was merely an impossible male fantasy that did not exist and, where she tried to exist, was merely a woman without a voice - who didn't complain or speak out, even when she had every right to. I learned that I was like lots of other women, and unlike some as well, but there was nothing wrong with either of those things. That it was an honour to be like other women. That I loved and admired so many women, so why wouldn't I want to be like them?
It took longer to let go of some of the language and notions. In fact, I still am in the process of doing so. Things like "don't be a pansy" escape my mouth sometimes and I catch myself looking down on things that are "girly" from time to time but it is a process, it will take time and I am still learning and unlearning.
The Pantone Colours of the Year recently triggered another lesson for me.
The seriously beautiful pairing of Rose Quartz and Serenity has me obsessed. Blue has been my official favourite colour for a long time now and, though that hasn't changed, pink has suddenly crept back into my heart.
For a really long time, I haven't allowed myself to like the colour pink and this ran so deep that I didn't even realise that the aversion was largely contrived. Yes, some shades of pink are garish in a way that makes me cringe. And, yes, blue genuinely is my favourite colour - the colour of clear skies, the grey-blue of stormy seas, the varied shades of my family's eyes, from baby blue to almost black - and the punk in me means that black is a staple in my wardrobe. But I really, really love pink - cherry blossoms, shy flushes across cheeks, vibrant sunsets, carnations given to my mother.
It took being unable to resist the draw of this colour combination for me to finally admit to myself that I liked pink.
Of course, I am aware that this could seem silly but it is less about a colour and more about the fact that even as a liberal, rather self-aware 24 year-old feminist, I still have lots of internalised misogyny to unpack and face.
So, all of the pink creeping into my wardrobe is not just cute but a way of celebrating that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman, that "pink" isn't necessarily "girly", that, despite this, there isn't anything wrong with something being "girly" and that I can like whatever I damn well like.
Embrace the pink in your life. It's made me happier.