I’m on a flight on my way back from Melbourne. Today I’ve attended a memorial service for Stella Young. If that name doesn’t resonate with you, Google the shit out of that woman until you fall in love. It won’t take long.
Her memorial was very fitting – fabulous, emotional, strong, funny, accessible, colourful and authentic. A 1 ½ hour service after which, Federation Square turned into a night club for the afternoon and we danced our polka dot shoes off. Emotions continued to be expressed through bodies and voices. The DJ had us all in the palm of his hand.
So now I’m thousands of feet up, glancing down at the baron Aussie landscape below, reflecting on a strange yet somehow familiar 48 hours. Last night was also my first Airbnb experience. And my host shared with me a beautiful metaphor.
He told me his take on human beings taking care of their own emotional and physical health is like oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling of a plane, in case of emergency. You are told to fit your own mask first. As on a plane, so in life, he said. Fit your own oxygen mask first. Look after yourself. Learn to listen to what your body and your mind needs. And feed it accordingly. Before you attend to anyone else.
Back to today and one of the most magical things about Stella’s send off was the diversity of the room. Melbourne Town Hall was filled with all kinds of people. I’ve never felt more at home in a room full of strangers. People with different skin colours, impairments, sexual expression, identity, dress and culture. The common ground we all seemed to share in that space was one of Stella’s own mantras … everyone was practicing being proud.
And so given that these people all exist outside of that room, I’m left pondering what it was that made that room, and the dance off in Fed Square, feel so different to every day life.
I think it’s that pride thing. I think it’s the fact that in day-to-day life, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out rather than the odd one in, as was the case today. Societal norms force us to hide our difference, aim to confirm, go out of our way to fit in as oppose to celebrating our difference and highlighting what makes each of us unique.
Yet today we knew why we were all there. We had Stella guiding the way. And we knew that she’d kick our arses if we dared to not be proud.
So I’m wondering if it’s possible to rent todays crowd. To take them along to the theatre, dinner, night clubs, the park, on the train, the bus, the ferry, on holiday, up mountains, into the bush, onto the beach and into the sea. To create environments where difference is truly celebrated in all it’s fabulous polka dot variation and authentically embraced.
Because I’m wondering if that crowd might be the oxygen mask. The extra boost we all need sometimes, to remind ourselves to be proud. To feed our souls first and foremost, before we attend to others.
To do my little bit to ensure Stella continues to shine in this world, I’m promising to practice being proud. To find a level of comfort in my own skin where I can be that crowd. Where I can be part of something that creates oxygen masks in abundance. So that everyone feels like they can breathe the same air without changing a thing.