How does one change themselves without losing themselves in the process?
I just finished writing a rather unstructured letter to a close friend of mine and I found myself writing about what I might somewhat melodramatically dub “my quarter life identity crisis.”
It happened so gradually and subconsciously that I didn’t notice it at all. I’ve just found myself at the other end wondering where I am, and how I ended up here. Somehow, I spent so much time looking in at myself, I started to doubt myself. I started to put my character and personality under the microscope in harsh light. Suddenly, all my idiosyncrasies and quirks, which I believed where endearing or at least excusable under the self-serving, unconditional nature of friendship, become horridly ugly, annoying and repulsive.
Random weird ponderings about what life would be like as flying pig or an octopus with only 7 arms have all but been sweep under the rug of my teenage years. Sarcastic or rather witty remarks, as I liked to defend them as, have been given the stamp of disapproval under the laws of becoming an agreeable and approachable but yet successful young lady. Dramatic outbursts of ridiculous self-pity are to be as thoroughly repressed as possible. Self-depreciating humour became a rather pathetic showing of self-loathing without its partner in crime, good-natured insults delivered in the friendliest manner.
“Be nice” becomes the motto. Don’t try and be funny unless it’s nice. Don’t complain or whine. Don’t dislike people on the basis of first impressions. Don’t do things that people don’t like. Subconsciously, I set down the rules to a game I never wanted to play. I navigated my first year out of high school using these unforgiving rules and challenged myself to please everyone. Now I’m at the end of the game, holding my prize of an inexcusably bland and uninteresting personality trying miserably to hide the multitude of insecurities I dug up over the course of the game. I knew that I could only take one career direction, and I could only be one kind of student academically. I accepted this, and so I could confidently say where I wanted to be in the future. But on the other hand, as a person, I wanted to be every possible version of me all at once.
I let go of someone I had grown up with earlier this year, someone who had always made me feel loved in my own skin. Afterwards, I found myself worried that I had let too much of my identity be influenced by this one person. As a result, I tried to be everything and nothing all at the same time. I wanted to change who I was, the way I made friends, the things I liked – basically I wanted to leave behind teenage Cynthia and just grow up into mature, thoughtful, kind adult Cynthia. In reality, I haven’t a clue what being an adult even means. In fact, I remember I used to abhor the way that age is arbitrarily used as an indicator of maturity. I’m not sure what happened. I started wanting to be the person who everyone agreed was really nice and friendly, but I think I forgot that not everyone is best friends with the the nicest people they know. That’s not how friendship works. I’m not sure why I thought otherwise.
Slow down, it’s alright. Nothing will happen if you take a pause. Stop for a little while. Feel the breeze. Let yourself breathe. It’s okay. Everything will be alright.
I just came home from catching up with a friend over food and coffee, and I’m feeling a little better about myself. Take it slow, enjoy the journey. I make friends slowly, but that’s okay. I keep my friends for a long time, but the one’s that don’t stick around that long aren’t worth stressing over either. I have close friends who care about me, laugh at my lame jokes and love me despite all my flaws. I don’t need everyone to like me, nor would it be possible for me please everyone. I’ll love the people I want to, and care for them as best I can. That’s all I can ask of myself.
Don’t change, just grow as you please, and regard only sparingly the expectations of others or any supposed rules.