This I Believe

Michelle - San Diego, California
Entered on July 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Embrace the Hippie Within

Two Halloweens ago, I dressed as a suburban hippie. No one at my work party got my “costume” with my hair in braids, a peace sign drawn on my cheek, a white conservative blouse, a black skirt with practical shoes, and my dad’s hippie jacket of fake fur and a ribbon with flowers down the back of it. That’s okay. It had taken me 40 years to come out of the closet and come to terms with my hippie-ness.

My dad was a hippie. One day after a year of working as an insurance salesman, he quit corporate America. The married, Catholic, college graduate, ex-Navy pilot with two young daughters just dropped out.

This was in the late 60’s and my family lived in a beach community of San Diego, where being a hippie was appreciated as part of the culture. My dad bought a junk yard in southeast San Diego, the only white man in the neighborhood of black people. He smoked pot, waved his pointing and middle fingers in a peace sign, took us kids hitchhiking to help in soup kitchens or visit the downtown library. We went camping in the desert and on a road trip to an Oregon commune. My mom baked granola. My dad baked funny brownies.

Even as a child I understood that being a hippie wasn’t all fun and living in the moment. At six, I understood the value of a job. I remember how my stomach ached when my parents partied with the neighbors. Throughout my childhood, my dad left a lot on drinking binges, on his motorcycle or up to Oakland for a year to be a window glazer. I felt abandoned to take care of my mom and my younger brother and sister.

At 21, I married a man who I knew would never leave his job and would remain sober. He was the anti-hippie, a preppy. We moved to a San Diego suburb where I became an uptight suburban wife trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Then something happened. On a business trip to New Orleans I had a nervous breakdown. My perfect suburban wife-mother persona shattered into a million pieces. Left behind, was the hippie I’d been repressing for 30 years.

This is what I learned from that trip to New Orleans and the ten years since. We all have a hippie living within us. It’s the part that is creative, spontaneous and yearns for peace, love and harmony. There are people more in touch than others with their hippie-ness. My current husband is more of a hippie than my ex. Non-profit organizations are more about the love than most corporations. Bush is more of a hippie than Cheney.

If we repress our hippie side, bad things happen: nervous breakdowns, workholism, wars, etc. Am I saying we need to wear tie-dyed shirts, grow out our hair and listen to Jefferson Airplane? No, we need to embrace the hippie inside and mellow out.