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This Is Me

Every year, my friend Ann has a party the night of the Oscars. She cooks for days beforehand, such that her ten-seat table turns into a buffet of deliciousness that would overwhelm ancient gods seeking tribute. I am addicted to the cheesy bread cubes that make an annual appearance (clogging my arteries has never been so much fun) and I enjoy critiquing the dresses, but I like to think neither of these are really the reason I go.

Usually, I don’t come with strong opinions about the nominees. The last movie I saw because I genuinely wanted to that eventually won the Best Picture Oscar was probably Shakespeare in Love in 1998. Watching the snippets of films in the Oscars and hearing my fellow party attendees say what they love about them, however, helps me to remember what I used to love about acting and storytelling–forging a connection with people you’ve never even met. The strongest connection of the evening for me came in an unlikely category – Best Song. It almost always goes to whichever song was in the Disney/Pixar comedy that year, and this year did not break with tradition. As in many years previous, this made me sad. I have not seen Coco, and the song may have a beautiful impact in the film, but my heart belongs to another nominee.

Keala Settle brought her formidable set of pipes to the Oscar stage to perform “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman.  I haven’t seen that one either. I’m not a huge fan of PT Barnum, and even if I were, I thought the musical Barnum told the story the best possible way. But this song made me reconsider.

In case you missed it the other night, take a minute to enjoy.

The sound quality to this rendition is less polished than the version at the Oscars, but I like this one better. Oh, and Kris, you will love Hugh Jackman even more after this viewing, assuming that’s possible.

I have to see the film now. Not just because this singer reminds me of a friend of mine, even though she really does. Not just because a film with big stars gave its anthem number to someone without her name above the title, although that impresses the hell out of me. No, I need to see the film just to see this song in its natural habitat.

In the spirit of storytelling, I’ve tried to watch some new tv shows and movies since then, to experience new voices. (The Breadwinner, an animated piece about all-too-grown-up children. Awesome. Completely the opposite of Superstore, a show about how childish adulthood can be, which is also awesome.) I keep hearing the voice of this song in them.

Society has a habit of telling us that we need to be a certain way. Not in a relationship? You are a loser. Married for a lot of years? You’re boring. Don’t want kids? Something is wrong with you. Had kids too young? You’ve thrown your life away. Had too many kids? You are low class. If there is perhaps one person in the world who managed to get it all exactly right, I don’t know them. Movies and TV at their worst parrot this at us, but at their best, they remind us that everyone’s story is unique, and that’s what makes it worth listening to. Whatever decisions you make, you will have some experiences and you will miss out on others. Whatever body you were born with, whether your family welcomed you or not, whether you achieved every goal you ever set or missed all of them by several miles, you have a place in this world and you have a story. Stop trying to live the life anyone else tells you that you should.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
This is me
and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me

This song sticks with me like it used my soul for a keyboard. The singer still has her scars. Nowhere in the lyrics does it say she found the perfect concealer to blend them into her skin. She knows the risks she takes by walking out as she is. She’s brave because she’s bruised. She doesn’t think confidence will make everyone around her treat her well. Instead, she says she knows the weapons are already aimed and ready, but she’s tired of taking cover. Bring it. Your bullets might hurt, but she’s learned they aren’t fatal.

I don’t know what your scars are, but I know you have them. I have some of my own. They don’t make us ugly. They make us who we are, and that’s beautiful.

Sing it with me, people:

I am brave
I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be
THIS IS ME.

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