(nearing the finish line at my first 5K race)
As I look back on my college journey, especially in the beginning, I wish that I would have been more assertive and more honest about what I wanted. I may not have gotten it, but I definitely wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy tip-toeing around people that probably didn't care one way or the other. Granted, when you're in a new place and those are the only people you know, it's hard to see beyond that. I didn't want to end up alone and have to see them every day, because I was already feeling isolated on some level. But I did meet other people. I found a place of belonging. Maybe not in the way I expected or wanted at first, but I did.
It took me a very long time to understand this, and often had to do so the hard way. I wouldn't go so far as to say don't pay any attention to what anyone thinks about you. I think people should care about whether or not their words and actions impact their relationships, particularly if someone ends up deeply hurt because of them. People should want to do their best in whatever situation or circumstances they find themselves in. But life is precious, and realistically there isn't time to dwell on whether or not your peers or colleagues love you, let alone like you.
It's not about giving the world the cold shoulder, but recognizing that you won't always mesh or find common ground with every person you meet. It's about realizing that intention does not necessarily affect perception; that just because you portray yourself one way, that does not guarantee that others will look at you with the same eyes. And that's OK. There's being somebody, but there's also being somebody for the right reasons.
Much of this chapter in my life has been centered on my identity, and trying to beyond many of the things that I'd been labeled over the last decade. Admittedly, I've spent a lot of time defining myself based on who I'm not or what I can't do. It's as though I've tried to reassure people, "well I'm not this, but that doesn't mean I'm not a good person. It's great to be authentic and I certainly don't want to put myself on a pedestal, but when I think about it, I don't want to be compared to anyone else either. Even though I'm referring to myself, it's a way of highlighting my flaws more than my strengths.
It all comes down to being able to own who you are. And if for whatever reason that's not possible, at least own where you're at.
These days I try my best not to make it complicated. I am simply a child of God. I am a human being. And I also have a big heart, and one that has a lot to give at that. I'm learning to not be ashamed of the way I love, and am slowly learning to incorporate that into how I live.
That being said, I don't really regret any of the detours that occurred along the way, some which were set in front of me and others I made by my own choices. In hindsight many of them were not good for me, but now I understand that just because something is a popular cultural choice, that doesn't necessarily make it the right choice. It ultimately led me to where I am today, a strong person who's grown and become more mature because of what I've been through.
This transition is bittersweet, and it won't be easy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I no longer want to be a project, whether it be out of my own motivation or others trying to convince me that I need to change. I'm all for growth and self-improvement, but more so because something is dragging me down rather than because it's what or who I'm supposed to be at this point. It's amazing what happens when you allow yourself to just be changed instead of trying to force it, especially for the purpose of making others feel satisfied.
So often I tried to follow bits and pieces of advice in order to feel better. But honestly, that happened when I stopped trying to hold myself together and started letting people in. Yet, as I go out into the real world, maybe it's no longer about finding a place where most, if not everyone gets it. It's natural to want to be part of a community that makes you feel safe and unashamed, and even more so to actively seek that out. But as I begin to close this particular chapter and go on to another, I have to wonder if it's really less about waiting to find a safe haven, and more so learning about learning to live by your own values and convictions, regardless if others agree or disagree.
It's a process, and I'm getting there.