It’s All About Self-Expression

David Toland is an EVS Technician whose new column, Can You Dig It?, details his experiences at Swarthmore, in the US Army, and with his three children: a daughter, Hunter, 11; and two sons, Noah, 13, and David, 12. Driven by an enjoyment of poetry and digital story-telling fostered in Learning for Life, David is writing to share his life experiences with the Swarthmore community.

Walking around Swarthmore College campus reminds me of a Dr. Seuss quote, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” I think that is what self-expression is all about. I have met a lot of the students on campus and no one is alike. They all have their own style and characteristics. I think that is what makes Swarthmore College so wonderful. Believe it or not, walking around campus and seeing the students has opened my eyes on the way I let my three kids express themselves. For a quick example, my eleven year old daughter wanted to dye her hair pink, so I took her and had it done. My twelve year old son is kinda punk-rock, rocks a pompadour hairstyle, and wears a fedora hat. My thirteen year old son has long hair. It does not change anything about them, it is just the style they choose. This reminds me of the many different types of styles I see as I walk around campus.

Growing up, there was no self-expression in my house.  I grew up in a middle class family with “old school” parents. It was regular haircuts and normal clothes. When I was in junior high school, an earring was the thing to have but  that was out of the question in my house. In my house, growing up was more like a “normal kid”  with no outrageous style or self-expression allowed. After high school, I went into the U.S. Army for ten years. There was no chance for self-expression at all. Everyone dressed the same, had the same haircut, and looked the same. So I started getting tattoos.

Now that I am older, I have all the opportunities for self-expression I want.  I have 64 tattoos, earrings, and a mohawk. In my experience, the first thing most people do is judge you based on the way you look. My thoughts are the same as Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who stated, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently from you.”  One person that stands out in my mind and I will never forget is a Doctor of Education who I worked with in the past. She was, may I say, an old hippie, but one of the smartest people I ever knew. We would talk a lot and got to know each other well.  One day, out of nowhere, she said , “Thank you…you changed my whole outlook on people with tattoos.” I guess in her generation only bikers and trouble makers got tattoos. My advice: don’t ever change to try and please anyone else. Be yourself and let people get to know the real you. So lace up your oxblood Dr. Martens, dye your hair blue, and rock your way through life…

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