Edgar Allan Poe was found in someone else’s clothes, in a Baltimore, Maryland gutter four days before he died in 1849. Theories abound as to why he was wearing an old straw hat, shabby suit, and worn shoes instead of his own black wool suit.
After being found, he was delirious until he died, and I doubt that Poe became coherent enough to request that someone fetch him his own kind of clothing. I assume he left this world in a gown belonging to the hospital where he died. Whether Poe played a role in scripting his own dramatic ending or if misfortune simply landed him in someone else’s wardrobe, it is a brilliantly fitting ending for the creator of detective fiction. It was also brilliant that he supposedly shouted, “Reynolds!” on his deathbed, and nobody is sure who that was. Poe managed to exit life dressed–and behaving in a way–that still remains a mystery to history detectives; his life imitating his art.
Because I love well-thought out, cleverly packaged stories with full-circle endings, I’m compelled to applaud Poe and work on drafting my own death that fits with my literary and artistic style, which is heavily layered and tightly woven. But mostly, Poe’s ending motivates me to want to make sure that when I die I do it in my own clothes. It inspired me to write a poem about it. I’ve become so consumed by the idea of dying in my own clothes that I’ve taken it to the extreme, and it has translated into my resolution for 2019: make a point of living each day in my own clothes.
I’m not talking about making sure that I’m wearing my active/creative/mom jeans and a comfortable cotton crew neck shirt every day for the rest of my life (although I will insist that someone bring me those clothes if I ever end up in a hospital or nursing home, because I really don’t want to die in a sad gown that is the property of an institution). I’m currently obsessing about the metaphorical clothing I wear. I’ve realized that, in order to guarantee that I’m “found in my own clothes” at the end of my life, I need to make a point of living in a way that is recognizable to others as the “Julie Ryan” style. I want others to be able to say at the end of my life that I really lived in a way that was true to who I am.
I’ve been thinking about what my metaphorical wardrobe has consisted of. With the exception of the stint in tenth grade where I wore something purple every day to express my very unique personality, my wardrobe has been primarily made of chameleon skin. I think a lot of peacemakers like me have this type of wardrobe. I think that’s an acceptable wardrobe, if it’s achieving a desired outcome. While evaluating my wardrobe I realized that I really don’t want to be known as a peacemaker when my life comes to an end. I want my metaphorical wardrobe to be that of a revolutionary who inspires other people to change for the better. When I think about who I am at my core, I am a leader and not a follower. I’m a trend-setter, not a trend-follower. I don’t sit around and wait for something desirable to happen, I get up and get it done. I’m proud to be who I am. Instead of investing years in therapy unraveling how I’ve acquired the wardrobe of a boring chameleon that hides my true self, I’m throwing out the “clothes” that I don’t honestly identify with and will start being more authentic. One of the garments I’ve tossed is a ridiculously high tolerance for socially destructive behavior in others. That tolerant garment included a muzzle and mitts that frequently kept me from verbalizing or writing my thoughts—because I didn’t want to offend perpetrators of cruelty and stupidity, I guess. I admit that there were a few small holes in the mitts and muzzle where sheer frustration and disbelief over other people’s actions caused me to occasionally claw or bite my way out of my restraints, but for the most part they were pretty restrictive. Along with being layered and tightly-woven, my literary and artistic style is entertaining, thought-provoking, and inspiring (if I do say so myself), and I want to be completely unrestricted so that the presentation of my life really reflects those qualities. I don’t want my epitaph to read: She succeeded at not offending anyone … what was her name, again?
This new resolution makes me excited to see what the future holds for me in terms of creative accomplishments and relationships . All I know is that the only thing I have to lose by throwing out my chameleon style and not living for the approval of others is: the approval from people that I most likely don’t respect in the first place. This revolutionary woman is totally fine with shedding those relationships.
And here’s a heads up: since my creations are entertaining, thought-provoking, and inspiring, I do plan to shout something fitting on my deathbed, so that my life can imitate my art, like Poe’s did. I won’t tell you what it is I plan to shout, but I promise I’ll be wearing my own clothes when I say it.
Here’s my Poe-inspired poem:
Found dead in someone else’s clothes,
a closet full will never know
who she might have been.
The unpresented business suit,
never traveled in gypsy shoes,
starlet skirts that didn’t dance
now can never ask
where she wanted to go.
The closest any one came
to knowing the meaning
of her draped in forgettable fabric name
was the tragic robe
made of faux chameleon.
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© 2019 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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