National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK

Last week, the post on the Russell Stover Factory in Corsicana entered into a weird read-only status that didn’t afford our normal 10pm post time. Thanks for sticking in there through the delay. Now, onto this week!

I’ve spent more time than I would like to admit to reviewing my life. Deciphering what can be learned from my decisions both good and bad. Being in a position where I routinely reflect for the purpose of writing something each week is both fulfilling and a bit terrifying at times. As such, it is easy for me to fall into my own “shoulds”. Things that in retrospect should have been a different choice.

Yet, as I get older I am aware of the many times that I have gotten caught up in others expectations for my life. Their “shoulds” for me that stand in the way of my own vision. Seemingly, small yet significant ways in which I have defined relationships in the past. Ways in which I have prioritized the goals of others for my behavior. Moments in which I have in part censored myself for the sake of the feelings of others or in ways that I keep things “polite” for company. All in all, that process has proven to be fucking exhausting. Pleasing others for the sake of others or at the cost of my own sanity and health is bullshit, I can confidently say.

When I was younger (and much more recently that I too would probably like to admit) I reminisced about how I was never my father’s son. I anguished over how the rifts in our relationship were amplified by the differences that we have. More recently, I have identified that I no longer feel as though I am my Mother’s son either; estranged from the vision for my life that maybe she had hoped.

In elementary school, I would perform regularly in theatre and choir. The music on the radio around my Mom’s house was usually ’90’s Country and as much as I might have fancied the idea of anything else, I would parrot these songs as a way to charm the adults around me. Between 90’s Tim Mcgraw, Garth Brooks or even a leg shaking Jailhouse Rock Elvis impersonation, I would garnish the attention and favor of anyone stopped long enough to be an audience. It was cute and usually got me out of as much punishment as maybe I deserved when I wasn’t hamming it up for the crowd.

But, none of that was who I was. They were mere elements that became a way to define myself, yet clearly not authentically me. We use labels such as “mature for their age” or “wise beyond their years” to describe kids that impress us beyond the levels that we imagine would be typical.

The track this week shares in a bit of the same identity lament that I think we all have at one point (or more) in our lives. If you’ve ever been hit with one of the “mature” tags, you too may have questioned if you were just born in the wrong time period. Toby Keith sings “Should Have Been A Cowboy” like he should have been alive during the nineteenth century during westward expansion.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum has many wonderful selections that depict life during those times. Founded in 1955, the museum possesses art renditions and exhibits that charm, educate and interpret life for not only Cowboys but all of Western Heritage. Notably, the museum prominently features James Earl Fraser’s “The End Of The Trail”, which I wanted to include in the site photo.

I spent the better part of an afternoon in the museum but could have been lost a lot longer in the beauty of the works, the interactive exhibit town or any of the skillfully and thoughtfully composed displays.

Like many, “The Cowboy” appeared in my consciousness when Tim, the museum’s head of security took over the official Twitter account. Tim provided honest and relatable content, as he navigated the account and how the social media platform performed. He would sign off with “#Hashtagthecowboy” and “Thanks, Tim”. It was exactly the well intentioned and lighthearted addition that I needed in my life.

More importantly, while I was able to imagine life in those times, I stepped outside of myself and quickly forgot about anyone else’s “shoulds” making way for the life and version of myself that I want to be.

I hope that if you identify with any of the above that you too find that freedom.

Until our next journey, take care of yourselves and one another.

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