A Girl Finding Her Identity

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When I was young- probably 9 or so- my cousin called me selfish.  Yet to explore any sort of self discovery or identity, I was shocked.

This stuck with me for years, and later I began to show many behaviors that were selfish.  I continually told myself I was misunderstood, different, and unloved.  I began to doubt myself and who I was as a person.

Where did I fit in this world?

I faked sick on family holidays and refused to believe I belonged.  I detached from the people who loved me the most, unaware how important family and my roots were.  I was antisocial, confused, and misunderstood.  How could anyone understand me if I couldn’t even understand myself?

On a 9th grade trip to the Birch Run outlets with my mom, I remember picking out a sleek dark purple jacket at Ralph Lauren.  I felt like a star.

Upon returning to Traverse City, I pranced around downtown, running errands with my mom wearing my black Express pants, envisioning myself in a place like Chicago or even New York City.  I dreamed of being somewhere different- somewhere no one knew my name.

Somewhere along the way I started to identify as the “black sheep.”

I didn’t know who I was at age 15, but I was certain I didn’t belong in Michigan.

As I went on to college, making new friends and seeking the approval of fraternity boys (some of which I’m still friends with today), I was lost in a sea of vodka and $1 beer. I did whatever I could to find love, but most of all, acceptance.

My drinking began to get out of control, and so did my self respect.  After college, I moved in with an older boyfriend who I later got engaged to.  I thought this relationship would save me from the all-nighters and my bad behavior- which it did, for about a year.  Then, I gave back my Princess cut diamond and took off to San Francisco.

I did the cities- 7 in all.  I worked in fashion.  I considered law school.  I did the startup thing.  I had no idea what I wanted, so I kept running from myself- only to find myself right back where I came from 12 years later.

As an adult, I’m aware I’m still a little selfish- and now, it’s okay.  This kind of selfishness is self-care, which at the core isn’t selfish at all.

The difference today is that I know how to set boundaries, but also to welcome the love that surrounds me.  My identity was never lost- I needed to mistakes, try things out, and move around to truly learn who I am as a person- and that being myself was all I ever needed all along.

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Social Anxiety and Doing You

Since November’s so nice, I’m writing twice.

Before moving back to Michigan I was afraid I would feel alone; lost in a place I used to call home.  That’s the furthest from my current reality.  Since being back, I’ve filled my days with writing, a lot of time with Mom, coffee and lunches, plus a lot of great conversations with old friends.

It’s important to balance “me time” with my social calendar.

From people pleasing to the pressure of explaining why I moved home, I’ve been feeling a little emotionally drained.

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up, so I kept to myself.  With one or two good friends (who I still talk to often), I had a very mellow teenage life.

Something happened along the way, whether it was college or coming back for summers, when I felt the need to be out and about all the time.  I worked in the restaurant industry from age 17-21, which is hyper social.  As a sober person and overall introvert, that social anxiety has returned, but in an entirely different way.

Instead of that awkward teenager, I’m now a woman who knows exactly who she is- and that’s the difference.

The social anxiety is still there- though I may not be awkward and uncomfortable around most people these days, I still get anxious when I feel pressure to “get involved.”  There are many events coming up, from author meetups to a book award festival, and those are things I’ll put my game face on for.

I know my goals, and I know the kind of people who align with my overall lifestyle.

Maybe I’ll become more of a social butterfly, or maybe I’ll always be be that girl who stays at home, writing in her leggings, chatting with old friends on the phone.  Time will tell.

I don’t have to attend everything I’m invited to, and I need to remember I am not obligated to respond to every message or email I receive.

So for today, I’m doing me.

People Pleasing

I caught myself in a wicked web- and I’m not talking about Halloween spiderwebs.

No, I’m referring to a web of lies that went out of control- lies I knew at the time would bite me in the butt, just like a spider, actually.

I didn’t mean it.  I went along with assumptions about me and what my life in Boston was like, quickly to realize I was stuck.  With a new job opportunity and people supporting a path I wasn’t sure I wanted to take, I realized I wasn’t being authentic.

I was doing and saying things to please other people, not doing what was in my heart.

Half truths, I realized I need to have a conversation with one of my good friends.  A face to face conversation.  A conversation that may leave me with my tail between my legs, but would set me free.

Looking to re-integrate into the community, I began to connect with people and tried to appear much stronger than I am.  I didn’t want anyone to view my abrupt move as a weakness, to offer me help, or to view me as broken.

Things didn’t exactly leave off pretty in Boston.  I quit my job, I left my apartment, and packed my things up with my mom.  It wasn’t a move I expected, but it was the perfect time for me to come home nevertheless.

As I look at what aligns with my heart and my goals for my life in Michigan, there’s a lot of things I may have done in the past to gain acceptance- but today I don’t have to do those things.

I know what works for me for my social life, my sobriety, and my overall mental health.  I know who is supportive, what I want, and where I see my life going.  Dishonesty doesn’t please people at all, and it especially won’t make me feel content.

Oh, the tangled webs we weave- but now I can unwind them and be true to myself.

That’s true freedom.