That time I grew the fuck up
I can’t even begin to explain how many eye-rolls that phrase has initiated in my life. Love yourself.
It took me a long time to figure it out, but once I grasped the idea that a strong inner core coupled with self-awareness is imperative to sanity and growth, I dove into a “relationship with myself” (another eye-roller right there.)
I grew up in what I often refer to as a bubble. In south Florida, more specifically, Aventura (north of Miami) I was constantly surrounded with people like me: white, Jewish, comfortable. I didn’t realize the diversities and complexities of different backgrounds.
I was always aware of the bubble, but I didn’t fully understand how deeply immersed I was. I knew I wanted out, because there was something unsettling about my situation. I felt like I was seeing the world through blurry glasses.
When I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin in the fall of 2011, I was naive, excited, and scared as hell. I moved into a dorm that turned out to be a reiteration of the aforementioned bubble. Well-off, Jewish kids from the coasts. Living in that dorm was a mistake, but not a regret*. I continued making these mistakes through my Junior year. I joined a sorority with more like-minded people, but of slightly different background. In this small step, I slowly made friends from different walks of life. The fog of my metaphorical blurry glasses was clearing up a bit.
A big question I got while attending school in Madison was, “why would you come here from Maimi?” At first, I myself was not sure. I told people I wanted the BIG 10 experience, or that I wanted to go through the changing seasons. It’s hard to establish a certain degree of clarity when your actions are motivated by subconscious desires. I recently have come to understand why I wanted Wisconsin.
- 2 planez (like 2 chainz, get it?): You cannot get to Madison from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale unless you stop over in Atlanta, Detroit, etc. This was something I relished. I wanted to be far from home. I literally forced myself to be without my family for those four years (with the exception of some visits). This was integral to my growing, whether I realized it at the time or not. I always relied on my mom to manage my life. Going away forced me to take my life into my own hands and further develop a sense of self.
- New friends: This is the big one. Coming from the bubble, I had always had a solid group of friends to spend time with, that validated my social life and my “winning personality.” That’s not to say I never switched schools or met new people. It’s just that the new people I was meeting were iterations of the types of people I knew from the bubble. When I got to college, I interacted with people who did not respond positively to me and that was jarring. I was not confident in who I was anymore, and I needed others’ approval and validation. It was not healthy.
My freshman year, I really wanted my roommate to be my best friend and my support system. I figured if I had one person I could constantly rely on, I would be all right. That was a lot of pressure to project onto someone whom I had just met. I needed to feel that people liked me and wanted to be around me. I held onto this notion for a few years, looking for happiness in my friendships until I realized that I was making myself sick and miserable.
What I learned about friendships:
Friends cannot be your direct line to happiness. There is absolutely no way that you can ever rely on anyone else the way you can rely on yourself. At a certain point, I began to feel detached from my friends. I felt like I was constantly inviting myself to plans and that I was initiating contact with littler reciprocation. I felt severe anxiety in social environments. I felt so alone.
It was really hard for me to grasp, but once I realized that my happiness was in my own hands, I was free.
Friends are accessories to the good times in your life. They’re around to make life a bit sweeter, and you can rely on them, but all in all, you cannot place that kind of pressure on others. The pressure of loving you so that you can feel that you deserve to love yourself. This will make you crazy, and constantly seeking validation.
Not many people want to be around someone who exudes self-consciousness and tries too hard. However, when people can sense that you love yourself and you believe in whatever you do, there is something attractive about it. It’s like, once you love yourself, others can sense it and want to bask in your clarity.
From my past friendships and experiences, I learned to put myself first. I truly love the person I am today, but it took me years of tears, struggles and anxiety to figure it all out. I had always struggled with friendships and insecurities/self-consciousness because I was putting my happiness in other people’s hands. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to love you or make you happy. It is only your own.
I hear people talking about how much they wish they could drop the “real world” and return to college. I get it, but I also understand that everyone has a different experience in college. My college years were replete with growing pains and figuring shit out. There was definitely some fun sprinkled in there, too. I wouldn’t go back, though, because I wouldn’t want to be the person I was. I am too, too excited about the person I am and the person I continue to become.
When people ask me why I chose Madison, I now tell them it is because I wanted to grow up. I wanted to experience things I hadn’t before. Meet different types of people I did not know existed. Each day, I work towards further clarifying those blurry, metaphorical glasses with which I see the world.
With my broadened perspectives and my inner love of self, I have found a solid sense of security and sanity. I am by no means a recluse, or antisocial, but I am comfortable being alone with my thoughts. I do not judge myself or my decisions. There are too many people in the world all too ready to do that for me. My job right now is to be there for me and to build myself up so that I can continue to live a healthy life of independence, strength and confidence.
I no longer give a fuck if no one is texting me, or if I haven’t heard from certain friends in a long time. I don’t feel left out when not included in plans, and FOMO is almost a thing of the past for me.
It was because I discovered that others face the same internal battles, and that it isn’t always about me. Figuring out that we’re all a little mixed up, “it’s not you, it’s me,” helped in salvaging my sanity.
Quite simply, I grew the fuck up. For the most part.
*There are many mistakes I have made in my life. I learned that regretting them was almost as useful as feeling guilt. Nothing comes of it and you wind up feeling depressed over things you cannot control. My dad refers to this as a form of cancer of the mind.