The voice in my head responded with a sharp “NO!!” Looking down meant I’d have to see how high up I was, and that’s ridiculous. My body on the other hand stopped listening to my brain a long time ago and instead responded obediently. I looked down to find the next purple peg below the green one. This was unfortunate, as I then discovered señor purple was not so much a peg. It was a TEENY TINY gum sized formation upon which I was supposed to rest a good half of my body weight in order to reach the next hand hold.
Down past the gum I gazed along the vertical wall upon which my body clung, arms and legs shaking involuntarily as they gripped the rock climbing wall. How high in the air was I? I dunno, but I was more than halfway up one of the highest walls in the US, so higher than most rational people would bother with. Eyes still gazing downward, my certified climber friends were now the size of my toe, beaming straight upwards with amusement at my novice.
I have no idea how long I hung there but it was long enough for me to consider what in God’s name happened to my brain. To have strapped myself in a harness and climbed a wall that had no gold at the top. I was climbing to absolutely no riches, sculpted men, valiant horses, there was nothing waiting to reward my efforts. Are we THAT bored in the United States? Apparently so. Or at least I am.
As I was thinking about the non-existent mansion I wouldn’t get if I made it to the top, just to the right of my self-wall-sculpture was a blonde bearded man about my age scaling the wall like a skillful tree monkey. He wasn’t looking down in paralysis having somewhat of an existential crisis. He was climbing like that was what he was born to do. Immediately, as it had for my entire life, my competitive blood flushed up my spine and into my arms and legs, scolding me for the momentary cowardice and charged that I must move on.
So on that gum I stepped and quickly lounged my body onto the next highest hand grip. The amount of energy exerted required a weight-lifter-esque grunt, which might I add was completely involuntary. Beardy probably heard me and wondered if Serena Williams had taken up rock climbing, but I didn’t care. I got a little higher.
And that has been a theme as of late. Not that I have been getting higher, because I haven’t, but that I didn’t care. The bearded tree monkey was going to kick my ass climbing that wall, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. And if it required a grunt or two, well, so be it.
As sexy as that sounds, I’ve reached the point where what people think about me really doesn’t matter anymore. People, self included, can suck at new sports, try things and fail, like music that you absolutely dislike. But I read something recently that profoundly reverberated through the latest of my existential musings.
This sentence should probably be the alluded quote, but I forgot what it was and I can’t find it again on Pinterest. See, this is why you shouldn’t hesitate to pin, if you like it, PIN IT IMMEDIATELY.
But the general gist of it was: Be exactly who you are, and don’t you dare apologize for it. There will be people who aren’t going to like it, and that’s ok, you don’t want those people around anyway. Being yourself will attract those people who you really, truly want to be around and will genuinely feed you with the friendly nourishment you need. Be patient and be yourself.
OK I elaborated a bit, but that’s what I got from it. And I’m not saying this in a fuck-the-world-Imma-do-what-I-want-and-you-all-can-suck-it kind of way, but in an empowering way. A freeing way which can unleash the shackles that a lot of us put ourselves in to fit in and have as many friends as possible. A way by which you can fully realize who you are and become the best version of you there is, uninhibited by concern about what people will think or say about you.
I am becoming more comfortable with being the woman I am at this point, which personally is something that took some time to learn. Maybe you have always been very well adjusted, and for that you should be happy. However I on the other hand had to learn, and still am. For instance, I used to hold back my laughter, having been teased before for laughing too often or too loudly. Then somewhere along the line I realized….really?? There are people asshole enough to make fun of someone’s expression of amusement and joy? And I’m going to allow that to shape my behavior? No. No, no, no, no.
We are often told how we are “supposed” to behave, or given a line of normalcy along which we should aline. For both women and men, there are magazines that teach us how to be whatever-it-is that will gain you more friends, confidence, a sexier love life and a perfect ass. At this point in the game, I honestly despise (most) women’s magazines, and will no longer pretend to give a shit about “What to Do to Make Him Fall in Love With You.”
People will fall in love with you only when you are you. And by love I mean in both the platonic and romantic way. You will attract friends when you pretend to like things you don’t, sure. But wouldn’t it be better to attract people who like the things that you like, and are interested in the crazy ass shit you and your weirdo self likes? You’ll attract powerful bonds when you aren’t afraid to be honest enough to just say what you really think.
With this, there is also the risk of pissing some people off or genuinely causing people to dislike you. There’s a fairly high level of vulnerability. When you really are behaving as your true you, and then people don’t like you? Wow it stings all the more. But allow my Seattle native self to reference one of our favorite sons:
“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” – Kurt Cobain
It really sucks when you know there are people who don’t like you. But it’s super awesome when you find those people who also adore that band that makes your body tingle, or who share a similar love for the Seattle Seahawks (you didn’t think I’d get through a whole post without mentioning my Super Bowl bound boys DID YOU?! Also, back off of Sherman people, sheesh).
If you don’t agree, and still think it’s better to just get along with every asshole out there, I offer a fictitious anecdote.
Let’s say you are interested in someone at a lively house party, and you discover that they totally love pickled herring. That stinky ass stuff that comes in a jar and looks like giant slimy rat poison. But they LOVE the shit and you like them and want them to like you. So you say you love pickled herring too…and as luck would have it, they happen to be serving pickled herring as an hourderve. Hottie offers you the fish with tempered excitement. Taking the fork upon which the flesh rests, you choke that shit down politely with a muffled, “mmmm!” They smile and run off to brag how they finally found another pickled herring lover just in time, because you have to run to the bathroom and spit that water vermon up.
But hey. You made a connection.
Guess what Hottie is going to get your lying ass for Christmas? A Delaware-sized shipment of pickled herring and a trip to the stinkiest pickled herring plant in northern Europe. I mean, good on you for scoring a trip to Europe, but now you have to lie to a bunch of locals who pride their lives on the garbage. AND you have to continue eating (and by eating I mean holding in your mouth till you find a toilet) pickled herring and professing your love for it.
Why not instead say, “Sweet! I understand how people like pickled herring given its cultural significance and unique flavor. However, I am more of a beer connoisseur, what say we go grab a Hefeweizen?” That there a win-win. Everyone with a non-douchey pulse likes beer and Hottie will think you’re clever by spinning the situation into a happy hour date.
(As a side note, I have never tried pickled herring. I was offered many many times by my grandfather and always politely declined because pickled herring is nasty. But I do appreciate people who like nasty things. So if you like pickled herring, I’m not judging you, and I appreciate your affinity for nasty things. I’m a vegetarian, so you can be tease me about that and relish in your ability to eat bacon while I can’t.)
I get how obvious it is for someone to say, “be yourself” because we all know that’s a good idea. But life can be really hard being you. I mean you fart, you smell bad if you don’t put on deodorant, you don’t really look great first thing when you wake up. We are very used to holding portions of ourselves back because we are civilized and farting loudly in business meetings just never seems to go over well.
Despite this accustomed self control, it’s important to be forthright with who we are. You are so awesome, and should be surrounded by people who will appreciate you for who you are. There are plenty of people out there who will find any opportunity to tear you down, but I think there are more people out there who will build you up if you let them. If you really let them know who you are, what you want, and where you are going. Only then can they truly support you, because you have offered them an opportunity to get to know your awesomeness.
As my friend always says and I’ll repeat forever, “Know who you are, and be it.”