I Cracked the Outer Shell and Touched the Inside of my Soul

selfieA vision struck me one day, that little bubble that appears in newspaper comics popped inside my head: “The Artist From The Inside Out”. In that moment, clarity washed over me. I said – “What a great premise for my blog”. Lay everything out, bare naked and in the open. Being an artist who is going through transition is simultaneously exciting and exposing; sometimes leaving me in a raw emotional state. After all, I didn’t plan on being transgender, nevertheless this is who I am. I spent my life hiding inside a shell. In mere seconds, I cracked that outer shell and touched the inside of my soul for the first time. A shell created to protect me from our society’s hate, ignorance and judgement. This coping mechanism – I honed –  from the outside in.

Realizing that I had defaulted to my shortcomings and created a suitable safe existence, became shocking to me. This idea of “The Artist From The Inside Out” reversed that dialogue with myself. Critical that I live unrestricted, free from hate and judgement, my quest is to get re-acquainted with the boy I abandoned years ago. Reclaiming ones’ self-identity is vital to transition. Being transgender, and an artist, means visiting the places I forgot, the uncharted experiences of my life that I desperately desired.

When I was a child, I assumed I was a boy, however, society rejected this and rendered me female – that was devastating. Life became hard when that reality sank in. As people challenged my identity, seething anger replaced innocence. The outer shell of self-protection began to form, but with consequences. My life became sad, depressing and scary. Confusion twisted my little soul in two, and I split my world to somehow fit this “new reality”. To become whole as a man, and as an artist, is my end goal. That’s happening with ease now, but with moments of grief. Normal human behavior is to look back and mourn the years we lost. However, grief purges the soul and opens your heart.

“The Artist From The Inside Out” was the light switch moment; the flipping of my life story. As an artist, authenticity is my mantra – what I strive to live by. Living by this code is what I need to feel connected. That authenticity is unraveling for me everyday as I learn something profound (or not) in becoming connected again to my true self. Funny, but the experiences I find profound are the simple memories of a carefree boyhood and joys of unfettered play. The simple love of my Matchbox and Hot Wheels , my purple Nerf football and my reckless tree climbing were true bliss.

However, as a small child I had awareness that I was different. My mother shared the other day a memory of me, at five years old, punching the little boy next door for calling me a girl! I consider myself a Robin Hood type, but a bully – no! My nature is to come to the rescue of the victim, the underdog. I suppose I was the victim of that little boy – and the five-year old me – didn’t accept this! Mom verified to myself (and to herself) that even at five years old, I understood I was a boy.

I strive to express love, passion and the human spirit as an artist. I want to express this crazy need I have to say something in my life. Art is a reminder of the inner light us humans hold. The brighter the light the bigger the impact. Self-expression is one of the biggest needs humans have, but at times forgotten. What higher form of democratic-expression is there but the human right to self-expression, self-determination. Therefore, my self-discovery of being transgender and going through this transition has been the ultimate in self-expression.

A critical and larger part of a healthy democracy is all equal parts are thriving. Artists are here to remind us of the commonality we all experience, because art by nature allows for human connection. As an introvert – as an artist – albeit late in life; my shell cracked open and the man within – exposed from the inside out.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [artistfromtheinsideout.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [artistfromtheinsideout.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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