Since I graduated college, I’ve been rediscovering myself, re-learning who I really am at the very core of my being, and working toward being the best version of myself that I can be.
It’s a tough thing to do while you’re in college, or high school even, because there’s really no time. When you’ve been in school since the beginning of your existence, you adopt a let’s just get through this philosophy.
Let’s just get through this term and things will slow down.
Let’s just get through this year and things will slow down.
Okay, let’s just graduate college and things will slow down.
After I graduated high school, I jumped right into college. At age 17, I was younger than most of my peers, and way younger than everyone in my Business Administration 101 class. I went from AP Classes, swim practice twice a day, and a part-time job to the PSU Honors Program, teaching fitness classes, learning how to play ice hockey, working an almost full-time job, and paying for the majority of my tuition.
I graduated college, quit my job, and moved to a new state all within the same two months, and since then I have finally had some time to lose the “let’s get through this” philosophy and really start living.
During this period of self-discovery, I’ve realized that I really started to lose myself somewhere during my middle school years. For most of us, middle school was a god-awful time and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many of us disguised our true selves in order to get through those torturous years with as little scarring of our souls as possible.
I guarantee that someone’s reading this (I’m talking to you, mom) and thinking, I don’t know what she’s talking about, I had such a lovely time in middle school. You are one of the lucky ones. Bless your little un-scarred soul.
I may have only been out-of-touch with my true self for about a decade, and that’s not too bad, but I still would like to turn back the clock and tell that little girl a few things I have learned since then.
1. Listen to your mom.
This one is really the most important of them all because I can tell you right now that my mom did give me all of this advice and my young, stupid self chose to ignore it. If your mom is not as amazing as mine and gives terrible advice, then listen to your dad, or your best friend’s mom, or your older siblings. They’ve been through it all before and they do actually know what they’re talking about.
2. Wear whatever you want.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that soon, a day will come when you are forced into the world of Business Casual/Business Professional wardrobes. Maybe you love wearing pantyhose and slacks and uncomfortable shoes, or maybe you get lucky and your work has a really lax dress code (I have been blessed in this regard), but you should enjoy the freedom of being a kid and wearing whatever you damn well please while you can.
The second reason is that, if you are anything like me, you will eventually return to dressing the way you want. I can’t tell you how much money I would have saved if I had stopped buying all the clothes that everyone else was buying and just stuck to wearing boy’s basketball shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes, and swim team sweatshirts. Swap the basketball shorts for a pair of yoga pants and this is my daily wardrobe now. For work, I wear jeans, boots, and a long sleeved shirt every single day. Seriously, I wear the same pair of jeans and I rotate about 5 shirts.
3. Don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of you.
I was going to use a non-swear word but I know the kind of music kids are listening to these days, and I really want to hammer home this point. Most likely, the friends you have in middle school will not be your lifelong friends. And if they do end up being your lifelong friends, it’s because they have always accepted you for who you are and never judged you for the way you dressed or did your hair or for not writing with giant bubble letters.
This really goes hand-in-hand with wearing whatever you want, because the whole reason I didn’t wear whatever I wanted is because it became “not socially acceptable” to dress that way. I don’t really know why, but when I was in middle school if you dressed like a tomboy, everyone thought you were a lesbian. And of course, I probably had to go home and ask my mom what a lesbian was because I had no idea (one of those innocent, sheltered firstborn children).
But gradually, I stopped dressing like a tomboy and I started buying the name brand stuff. That was also a big deal. I remember throwing a big fit about having to buy some generic-brand boots because my mom wouldn’t buy me Uggs. Spoiler alert: You don’t buy Uggs when you live in Oregon because it rains all the time and they get ruined. I started wearing bras even though I was still flat-chested because apparently it wasn’t okay if boys could see the outline of your nipple through your shirt even though it still looked exactly like their nipple.
And I started brushing my hair and trying to make it look nice, and I even started getting highlights because that was what the popular girls were doing. Disclaimer: I still get my hair colored, but to this day I have no idea how to use a curling iron and will probably never learn. Ponytail/bun all day, every day!
The point is, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or what anyone else is doing. If someone needs you to act or look a certain way to be friends with you, they’re not your friend. The sad thing is that I’m 100% certain my friends still would have loved me and accepted me if I hadn’t done any of those things, but I felt the pressure to fit in and I stopped resisting it.
4. Popularity does not mean a thing in the real world.
It might seem like the popular kids have the greatest lives, but being popular won’t help them when they’re trying to get a job or apply for college. If they experience great success in their lives, it’s because they have actual skills. They aren’t just popular, they are also smart, motivated, dedicated, and driven. That’s what will get them places.
Sure, there are still cliques in the real world, and there is an aspect of popularity in the business world. People who are more extroverted may have an easier time networking and meeting new people and finding new opportunities, but there are so many ways you can network and find your niche or your dream job.
5. Don’t waste your time on boys.
I always wanted to be one of the boys. I have two younger brothers, and many of my best friends have been boys. I was never interested in anything girly, like painting my fingernails or trying on makeup. I’m completely convinced that I started liking boys because that’s what all the other girls were doing. They’d pick a boy and obsess over him and try and get him to be their boyfriend. If I wasn’t surrounded by that kind of behavior, I don’t think the idea would have occurred to me until much later.
If I hadn’t felt pressured to be in the same phase everyone else was in, I don’t think I would’ve had a boyfriend until high school or maybe even later. I wish that I hadn’t felt like I had to participate just because that was the thing to do. Chances are pretty high that whoever your boyfriend is in middle school, and even high school, will not become your husband, so if you have no interest in it, why bother? Be one of the boys for a little bit longer.
That’s all there really is to it. Just be whoever you want to be. Ignore the current clothing trends and the petty drama and the fact that everyone is trying so hard to fit in. You don’t need to fit in. This is not what the rest of your life will be like, and I can guarantee that your life will be so much better and so much happier if you do the things that make you happy and ignore the bullshit.
I know that I would have been ten times happier in middle school, high school, and even college, if I had kept on being my authentic true self and hadn’t tried to be like everyone else. In the end, it was all a waste of effort because I still can’t take a Pinterest-worthy photo of my messy bun, I don’t know how to curl my hair, I don’t have a thigh gap, I don’t know the first thing about makeup, and I don’t own name-brand everything.
But I don’t care about any of those things.
Because I do have an amazing husband, a really great well-paying job, an apartment full of plants that I haven’t killed yet, one really comfortable pair of sweats (plus access to all of my husband’s clothes), a lot of dry shampoo, a car that’s paid off, and an amazing group of family and friends who would not be surprised if I wore my favorite pair of sweats to a wedding.
So, if you feel like you lost yourself somewhere along the way, I encourage you to take a moment and remember that person. They are still in there, waiting to get out, and you should let them. Because wouldn’t life be better if we were all our own unique, authentic, amazing selves? ❤