Be as you are


I didn’t drink soda as a kid — in fact, I had no idea what Coke tasted like until I was in middle school.

And once I tried it, I thought it was disgusting. Not only the flavor, but the carbonation too. It produced a gritty sensation and felt like liquid sandpaper running down the back of my throat. It almost hurt to swallow.

Why would anyone willingly drink this? Whole cans of it? Why? I wondered.

Most of my peers thought this was weird.

“You don’t like soda? Well have you ever had…” and they’d name some brand or flavor that I probably hadn’t tried. It didn’t matter, I could tell just by the way that it foamed in the glass that I wouldn’t like it.

The teasing I received for my dislike of carbonated beverages was mild. But it left me with a nagging feeling, a question of sorts that I still think about today.

Why do we care if the things we like or don’t like are also the things other people like or don’t like?

It feels enormously important when you’re young to be liked and understood and to have people with whom you can be yourself. Hell, it’s important to feel like this even once you’re an adult. But when you’re young, the way that you fulfill this desire is sometimes to alter the things you really like or submit to things you don’t really like in order to fit in.

As an adult, most of us cultivate a more established sense of self, owning the things we like or don’t like and building communities that nurture these selves. But our tendencies, even in our matured tribes, to eschew things we don’t understand or don’t ourselves like at all, surface pretty regularly.

You’re guilty of it — I am too.

How many times have you seen pictures of an acquaintance or friend waiting in line the night before Black Friday at Target and openly ridiculed or criticized them?

Or, on the flip side, saw a friend espousing a new habit or mantra (like the benefits of putting kale in your shakes or drinking your coffee black or limiting your kids’ TV time to 30 minutes a day) and questioned your own way of doing things?

The question I have is this: how often do we let what we see out in the world influence the way we present ourselves to the world?

My answer? Often.

The tendency to judge comes from the idea that we are being judged. It is insecurity, it is fear that whatever it is we really do like, whoever it is we really are underneath it all, is just not good enough.

I happen to actually like kale in my shakes. I enjoy the taste of kale. Is that weird? Maybe. But also — I fucking hate black coffee. I really do. I like my coffee light and creamy and sweet. You know what else? Some days my kid watches way more than 30 minutes of TV. And I still don’t like soda.

Can we all come to an agreement that who we are is exactly, one-hundred percent okay?

If you want to stand in line for good deals on Black Friday — who cares? If getting a good price on Christmas gifts makes you happy, rock on.

If you like music that isn’t popular and no one else you know really gets it — who cares? TURN THAT SHIT UP.

If you hate going to the gym — DON’T JOIN THE GYM. I mean, you should try to move your body in some way to keep your heart healthy and your brain strong but there are plenty of ways to do that. You don’t have to be a CrossFit champion. You’re a worthwhile human no matter your size.

If you ARE a CrossFit champion? Goddamn it you’re impressive. You’re going to hashtag the shit out of your post workout photo aren’t you? Love it.

Do you love dogs? Taylor Swift? The snow? The sun? Shopping at Target? Shopping at Nordstrom? Hate shopping? Do you drive a big truck? Or an electric car? Are you really into almond milk? Do you think almond milk is just water lying about being milk? Own a selfie stick? Love your local library? Go to church? Like to rock climb? Are a known squirrel enthusiast? Get jazzed about This American Life? Rock out to death metal? Love Dunkin’ Donuts? Are a total coffee snob?

Any of those things? All of those things? You must be pretty awesome.

We have this microscopic amount of time on Earth where our hearts continue to beat in our chests and our bodies allow us to move and create and love. Who has time to waste on things they don’t really like? And even more — time to waste worrying about what other people do like?

Try this — every time you find yourself starting to think something judgmental, think this instead: Good for you.

And every time you question whether or not something you like isn’t the best thing or the right thing? Think this instead: Good for me.

Be as you are. The world is better for it.