You don’t have to be who they want you to be. Read that one more time if you need to.
You don’t have to be the one who goes out every Friday night. You don’t have to be the one who is always glowing with optimism. You don’t even have to be the one who always says and does the right thing. You’re allowed to be multidimensional and step out of character from time to time.
Sometimes the people we’re closest to unwittingly pigeonhole us. They cram us into a tiny box of who they think we should be based on our original debut, and then it’s assumed we’ll continue to abide by those ideals for the rest of our lives. Obviously, this doesn’t leave us much room to evolve.
We too can hold stale expectations of our loved ones, forgetting to adjust our lens as life chisels them into a brand new human. We cannot expect someone to not be hardened after tragedy just as we cannot expect the extrovert to not suddenly adopt the habits of the introvert. If we don’t allow our friends to express themselves in a new role or vice versa, they may come to find they’ve outgrown us too.
It’s the same as in a marriage. Over the years, one of two things will happen. You will grow together or grow apart. The person you vow to love forever is not necessarily the same person you will grow old with, because likely both of you will refine your beliefs and change shape. This can strengthen a relationship if done together, or it can destroy it. I am not going to pretend to be the expert on marriage or any relationship for that matter, but I do recognize the importance of being malleable and giving our partners space to be who they need to be. If who they become no longer aligns with us, then that means we either need to adjust ourselves or let go. The only other option is denial.
When I was young, I was pegged as the girl who drank herself into oblivion on an ongoing basis. And though I did have a problem with recurring blackouts and doing a whole list of things I regretted, that doesn’t mean that I should forever be labeled as the girl who loves to party.
There is a danger in being surrounded by people who see us as who we once were and not who we’ve become.
Can the addict ever stop using drugs if he or she is encircled by people who are just waiting for the next relapse? Can the outcast ever find that sense of belonging if they are constantly reminded of the alienation they felt in high school? If someone is pulling you back down despite your every urge to pull yourself out of the rubble, then is the relationship worth it? Is your history together really worth sacrificing your future?
If you’ve taken 30 years to start fighting for what matters to you after having covered your own mouth in duct tape, there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason why you’re finding the strength to speak out now and not then. And the worst thing you could do is keep yourself trapped in someone else’s definition.
Be the hermit. Be the social butterfly. Be the tortured artist. Be Susie sunshine. Be whoever you are right now. And if tomorrow that changes, that’s okay.