A few months ago, I had my aura read. An aura, by definition, is, "the distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing or place." In reality, it is a Polaroid picture with swirly colors on top taken by a blonde chick who grew up in a commune and is now renting a rundown walk-up in Chinatown. Which is to say it's the absolute coolest.  

My friend, Sydney, invited me and my other friend Drea to go on a Sunday to get our swirly polaroids. Sydney and Drea are the types of people that someone who doesn't live in New York imagines in their head whenever they think about what people living in New York are like. Drea is tall and blonde and jets from coast-to-coast as a badass advertising producer. She's also the kind of person who brings cheese platters to casual girls' nights so that we always have something to nibble on. Sydney has glowing skin and the most magnificent eyebrows you've ever seen, and her PR brain knows about everything 2 years before anyone else which is, again, how I found myself paying 30 dollars for a Polaroid taken inside a renovated drug den.

I showed up right on time but not wearing real pants and unable to fully open both of my eyes because I'd had red wine the night before even though I know it makes my head feel like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. Drea was there early, had brought an extra water bottle "just in case", and looked like a model on her way to the airport. Syd showed up late but texted us every 2 minutes with updates on her ETA and entered the room in a whirlwind of energy and perfectly blown-out hair. I honestly think the lady could have read our auras simply by our entrance and saved a couple Polaroids, but we were there for the swirls and we were going to get them, dammit.

By the grace of God, I managed to open both eyes for my picture and then proceeded to sit-lay on the couch and drink 6 complimentary mini water bottles until everyone's picture had developed and the real fun began. The blonde hipster goddess came over, looked at all of our slowly appearing swirls and began to tell each of us what our respective polaroids meant.

Drea went first - the purple rising high above her forehead meant she was a thinker, very spiritual, something of a dreamer. The orange that was covering her chest and seeping down into the bottom right corner meant she was organized and a bit of a perfectionist, someone who loved problem-solving, not just for herself but for others as well. Basically, she was the kind of person who would be a kickass producer and bring cheese plates and water to those in need. 

Sydney's was completely red and it didn't spread too far out from her body. This meant Syd was driven and a realist. Someone who knows what they want and isn't afraid to go after it. A woman completely self-possessed. I asked Sydney if she'd like to trade.

Because mine was a rainbow. Which looks pretty awesome, but I knew what it really meant. Hot.Mess. I had the same big purple dreamer cloud above my head as Drea, but down my right side was yellow and green, which meant that I was really hard on people but still had friends because I was able to hide behind a great sense of humor. Fantastic. My neck was white - a sign of creativity - and my entire chest had turned bright red. Well, at least that meant I was self-possessed like Syd, right? Wrong. My red was the bad kind, the kind that meant pressure. Big time, serious, unrelenting internal pressure. The kind of pressure that makes green swirls of judgment shoot out at friends and loved ones and takes that beautiful, purple dream cloud and squashes it into something more closely resembling a sad face.

After our pictures fully dried, the three of us did what any self-respecting person does in Chinatown and bought a disgusting amount of dumplings. Drea treated us because it was cash only and she was the only one of us who had cash (it's the orange in her) and we went to a park and continued talking about our auras. Sydney wanted a color other than red. Drea wondered if that was some yellow in her photo or was it just the orange fading away? Maybe there was some blue, or was that just the purple running into the orange? The longer I stared at my rainbow face, the brighter my red chest seemed to get. And no matter how much we googled "aura color meanings" and "different aura interpretations", the verdict came back the same - we were exactly the humans we were, the humans we had always been. 

This aura lady hadn't predicted our future or revealed to us anything we didn't know. Drea is, indeed, both a dreamer and a doer. Sydney is a beautiful she-lion, fierce and determined. And I once forced myself to color an entire coloring book in sequential order when I was 7 for no other reason than to make sure I could, so I feel pretty comfortable saying my red chest fit the bill. It's just that it's really pretty terrifying to have a stranger sit down and put your soul into words.

I still keep my aura photo on the fridge. I'm proud of the big purple dream cloud and the streak of yellow humor. I look at the white resting under my chin to remind myself that there's tangible proof of the creativity I've always known lived inside me. But mainly I reference that red chest of mine, and when I start scolding myself for not having a written a bestseller yet or browsing the police academy requirements because the thought of being a writer has suddenly become more than I can take, I just glance over and remind myself that no one but me is demanding perfection. 

Knowing my aura hasn't changed me. I'm still extremely hard on others and myself - I'm also still witty and full of humor, in case you forgot about my yellow streak already - and I don't know if that will ever cease to be that case. It's just that now when I start to feel like I'm up against the world and losing the fight, I have a beautiful swirling reminder that it's all in my chest.