I’ve been told to “be myself” my entire life. Be myself? Of course I was going to be myself, how could I be anyone else? Well, it’s possible. Just ask anyone who was ever in middle school, or even worse, high school. I always thought I was doing okay in the “be your own person” department while I was making my way through school. I was a good kid: got straight As, stayed out of trouble, played sports, was the president of French club (no, I can’t speak French anymore), volunteered anywhere that would let me… I thought I was doing all of that for myself, because it made me happy. Wrong. I was doing it because it was what I was expected to do. So, be myself? I’m not so sure I was doing that as well as I thought I was.
I didn’t realize I had lost who I was until after I graduated high school, which I’m going to guess isn’t all that uncommon. I “decided” to major in pre-medicine and become a doctor. Just like everyone told me I should. I lasted the first week of classes until I called my mom in tears telling her there was no way I could do that for the rest of my life. That’s when I realized how unhappy I was, how lost I was. I spent four years in high school trying to look like every other girl, trying to act like other girls, trying to be what they all wanted to be. I just had to fit in. I don’t know who I had become back then, but I never want to see her again.
After I changed my major from pre-med to public relations and journalism, I literally felt a weight lift off of me. (I know people use this all the time and it’s such a cliché but I can think of no better way to describe that feeling.) I was free. The real me could finally show herself. And I let her shine.
And that brings me to where we are now: I’m exhausted as I type this, but in a good way. I’m exhausted from fun, from travel. Not from stress over what other people think I should do with my life. Once I made that decision to let my true self out of wherever she’d been hiding, my life changed and became something I had only ever dreamt about. In high school, if someone had told me they didn’t like my shirt, I would’ve thought it was the end of the world. Now, I could care less. You don’t like my shirt? Oh, well I guess it’s a good thing you don’t have to wear it then, isn’t it? That tiny, small change in attitude made all the difference in the world. It still makes all the difference in the world.
I don’t care what anyone thinks I should be doing. If I don’t want to do it, if it’s not going to get me closer to my goals, I’m not going to waste my time. I’m not going to look a certain way or act a certain way or talk a certain way just because society tells me to. Nope, that’s how you lose yourself. It’s how I lost myself. If I could go have a conversation with some of my middle school, and even high school teachers, I’m sure they’d all feel like they were talking to a different person. Now I have opinions (and strong ones), I talk maybe a little too much, I don’t hide myself, I don’t care if I don’t “fit” here, I fit myself and that’s all I care about.
I am real. I’m real in a world that is constantly telling me not to be. Being real means that I screw up. And I screw up a lot sometimes. There are days where I feel like I can’t do anything right. But then there are days where I feel like I can do anything, I could take over the world with just one look. That’s the balance. You’ve got to stay true to who you are, the real you, not the you society has turned you into. I never would’ve gotten to where I am today had I stayed bottled up as I spent so many years doing. I wouldn’t be writing this right now, in fact, I’d probably be crying over the MCATs which I would be taking very, very soon.
The world will try to tell you what and who you are… don’t let it. You don’t have to define yourself based on what others tell you about yourself. The only person who can define you is you. Just keep it real. Even when the world doesn’t.