When I was eleven, my family moved to Long Island from Jamaica (West Indies, not Queens). I hated our house on sight, not because the house on the outside resembled every other house on the block, or that it was in an increasingly cold, foreign place, but because every wall in the house was covered in patterned wallpaper. Every room displayed a different print of muddied, whirling colors– the dining room was blue and green, the kitchen yellow and brown, and my bedroom pink and white.
One day, when my parents weren’t around, I decided to tear the wallpaper off the walls. My hands were idle and my eyes didn’t care to look at the sheer hideousness surrounding me anymore, so I thought, “Why not tear this paper off the walls?” I can’t remember where my brother was, (probably in his room listening to music), or where my mother was, (probably fast asleep after a twelve-hour shift at work), but I had many undisturbed hours to completely rip the paper off the dining room wall and almost finish my bedroom wall before my father came home. Do I need to tell you that he wasn’t happy? As a result of my actions, the entire house was painted; since the dining room, and my bedroom had to be painted, my parents figured that it would make financial sense to do all the rooms. My actions were impulsive, and perhaps inconsiderate, but they showed me that sometimes it’s necessary to act without permission and without over-thinking. What my parents had done up to that point was a whole lot of talking about the ugly wallpaper, and my tearing the first green strip changed our lives in some ways.
My life has thus been a series of “tearing down the wallpaper,” which, to me, means assessing a situation, acting without over-thinking (more on the side of impulsively), feeling the consequences and being okay with the outcome. A friend recently told me that he doesn’t take any risks, because life is short and he doesn’t know what will happen. His reasoning has left me puzzled. Shouldn’t we take risks because life is short? Of course, there may be losses, but how do we find out about all our unseen gains without making a move?
I came back from Bali two weeks ago, after an eleven-day trip to Ubud. That place is under my skin, and I woke up last Thursday with only one thought, “I must get back there.” It’s possible that as my friend Tony says everyone has an energy center, a place where they can go to be renewed and be their best selves. Ubud is that source of energy, creativity and joy for me, so I tore a piece of wallpaper and bought a ticket back. The thing is once you start peeling the wallpaper back, you must commit to it. You can’t leave half the wall with green swirls while the rest is white; so not only have I bought a ticket, but I’ve given up my place, found a temporary home for my belongings, submitted a temporary leave of absence to my job, and spoken to a wonderful friend in Ubud about lodging. I’ve committed to starting the room of my life over, and will start painting it with a different brush going forward.