If I could name off all of the things I was told that I supposedly had to be, I could easily create an entire instruction manual; be less of a geek, and be more assertive. Don't act too serious, but don't make a fool of yourself. There were times where the list seemed endless, and it all turned out to be quite confusing. There were times where I wanted to scream out "what do you want from me?" because regardless of what I did, it never felt right.
I know now this it is because I have a multi-faceted personality; meaning, I often exhibit a plethora of different qualities that appear to be complete opposite of each other. I consider myself both an introvert, as well as an extrovert. A deep thinker that loves to laugh and have fun with others. I spend time with friends and family, but I also try to take time to be by myself, more or less to relax and reflect.
Whenever I look back on it, I choose not to blame or hold anything against those that tried to give me that kind of advice. They were only trying to help me, more so because I vocalized that I wanted to be liked and accepted among the kids that I went to school with. I just wish they would have said different things, or kept silent and allowed me to figure it out on my own.
Back then, I wish someone would have told me that I shouldn't (and still don't) have to prove anything to anybody. That my real friends weren't going to expect me to act a particular way or dress in a particular style. I wish someone would have told me to stop, take a look around and appreciate everything that I had at that time.
Or maybe someone might have said those things, but it got lost in translation.
I'm not sure if it would have changed the course of how I lived my life from that point on; I've realized that there are lessons which we are meant to learn at specific periods or stages. I'm confident in the fact that I wasn't meant to discover or learn a lot of things about myself until I went away to college.
I may not have had a huge epiphany when I was younger, but I believe that middle school and high school would have been a lot calmer. I wouldn't have been second-guessing myself so much.
Which then begs the question, do parents (or adults in general) really know best when it comes to growing up and navigating life?
I'm not here to judge anyone's parenting methods, because a lot of it depends on the kid, particularly when they're in their early and late teens. Some like the safety net of being guided by someone older than they are. Others, myself included, would like to be able to figure themselves out on their own terms, in their own time. Otherwise, they dig their heels in full force and it just turns into one big mess.
Overall, it might be a matter of intuition; that is, knowing when to step in and intervene, but also knowing when to wait, and simply listen and observe.
Personally, a good amount of what I have learned about myself and the world hasn't exactly come from being told about it. I had to go through my own experiences of tripping, falling, and getting back up again without the step by step process of anyone else. Yes, I had other people there for me. But I didn't always choose to go to them for advice, or take the advice that was given to me. It mostly depended on whom it was coming from.
If I could impart wisdom on my younger self, or anyone with a similar personality as myself, I would say this:
Don't worry about where you fit in, regardless of what stage you're in as you go through life. It's not the end of the world if you're considered a geek, or if you don't fit into one specific mold. High school, and even college is kind of like living in a bubble, and it seems like there are so many things that matter. Once you get out of it, or at least take a step back, you'll understand that status is one of the least important things there is.
What is important is that you have people in your life that love you unconditionally, and accept you for all your quirks and flaws. You need to surround yourself with people that will encourage you and enable you to make good choices.
Don't be afraid to at least take the time to listen to what your parents or elders have to tell you. They might give you advice, but you don't always have to take it. I certainly didn't; not because I was trying to stick it to them, but because a lot of what they were telling me to do wasn't me. You have to be able to recognize what you're comfortable with and what you're not.
The other aspect is something that has taken me years to fully comprehend, much less follow through with. I call it the practice of imperfection; the notion that there are always things we can do in order to make ourselves better, but also allowing ourselves room to just be; to stop trying to project this near-perfect image, and instead allow people to see you as they choose to. Taking down the walls is a scary thing, but it's extremely refreshing in the long run.
It's so sad how at some point in time, every human being will believe that they're not enough. It's sad how that is the message that is being communicated by parents, peers, and popular figures alike. What's worse is that those on the receiving end are taking it to heart, and going so far as to end their lives because who they are doesn't measure up. They're considered less than because they're staying true to themselves. I am talking about all races, religions, sexual orientations, and so forth.
It breaks my heart realizing how people live like that. But it's also relieving to know that one doesn't have to.
Society will tell you that you always have to be more, and that you have to be better. Please, take a step back and give yourself some credit. Stop beating yourself up for what has already happened, and what you cannot change. Accept that you will make mistakes and learn from them.
Know that you are enough; you do not have to have a list of reasons, other than the fact that you're a human being. You're a human being with a story that deserves to be told.
You are good. You are beautiful. And you are enough.