When I was 16-years old, I spent the summer in Israel and, while I was there, got my ear pierced. It was a surprise that most of my friends (and probably ALL of my family) thought was completely out of character. But, it was something that I knew I wanted to do, and despite the outcry that awaited me upon my return, getting my ear pierced was one of the most memorable moments of my life. Flash forward to my first week of college and I decided to mark the occasion by piercing my other ear. A year later, I got a third piercing by adding a second hole to my left ear.
I kept the three earrings throughout college. When I graduated, however, and got my first job, I was encouraged to leave them out. I was in the working world now, the “real world,” and the real world frowned upon men with earrings. Especially those who expected to build a career and climb the proverbial corporate ladder. As much as getting my ears pierced was one of the most memorable moments, deciding to let the holes close ranks upon my list of great regrets. While that may seem dramatic, I think regret can come in categories – like a dog show. It may not win the ultimate “Best in Show” overall regret, but it certainly comes close to winning the category that is about “me being me.”
Recently, I’ve been thinking about getting my ears pierced again. Perhaps it’s silly to think about such a thing as I’m careening toward 43, but just as I initially viewed the pierced ear as a symbol of independence, interestingly, I view it now as the very same thing. After so many years of living for others , I want to take back (some of) my independence. I’m the boss now (professionally speaking), so there isn’t the proverbial “higher-up” telling me to lose the jewelry.
Naturally, I did what anyone does these days when facing some sort of life decision – I took to social media. The reaction to this idea has been mixed to say the least. My cousin, who has his ear pierced, was, of course, all for it (as was his wife). Because they are two people who live life in a way that I admire, his encouragement was an influential vote in the “yes” column. However, most of the other people I respect were universally against it. They pointed out that as much as I own my business now, I still work in the “real world” and my clients are in places like Omaha and Little Rock. (That said, our clients are incredibly open-minded and, I think, understand who I am and how I think.)
In my life outside of work, I live in a place where earrings on men aren’t such a big deal. Marin County, after all, did overwhelming recently vote to make marijuana legal in California. I see earrings on dudes all the time (including, most notably Metallic drummer Lars Ulrich, whose kid is at the same school as K-Man). So, the pressures of my community don’t really play into this decision.
What really plays into the decision more than anything, however, is why I want to do it. And, what I realized is that the earrings are nothing more than a symbol – a reminder to be me. Someone once told me that, “I had the soul of an artist.” It may have been the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. Or perhaps the most impactful. I took that to be a huge compliment. And the earrings would be a daily reminder to live that way.
But, do I really need them? No. Not right now.
What I realized in this self-reflection about the earrings is that my desire for the holes in my ears is just the reminder. So, instead of getting my ears pierced again, I’m just going to remind myself to live my life. (Maybe someday)
For the record, my kid thought I should do it. Love the innocence of five year olds.