You know the classic teenage meltdown every one experiences? It’s generally in the phase where you feel oh so misunderstood and very very self-deprecating? (Refer to Jenny Humphrey in season 4 of Gossip Girl).
I haven’t felt that way since I was 14. Until recently that is.
Perhaps it’s because of the tumultuous time I’ve had with friends lately. It’s put me in a bit of a reflective mood and I realized that maybe I’m not just temporarily suffering from “special snowflake syndrome”.
Maybe I really am different.
When I was younger, I was extremely shy. I wasn’t interested in making friends on the playground; partially because I detested running around and getting all sweaty, but mostly because I was always wrapped up in a book. And really why would I choose to get all muddy when I could sit in the cool shade reading about magic and mystery? I was content in keeping my circle close with a couple good pals, and the company of my favourite characters.
Gradually, I shed the shy shell and took more of an interest in the world around me. I made more friends and voiced the opinions I’d always kept to myself. I enjoyed speaking my mind, even when it got me into trouble.
Through observing others’ reactions and responses to me and my thoughts, I became skilled at reading people. I can’t whittle it down to an exact science but I always seem to know what people really mean. It’s part intuition and part observation, but I can always tell when someone isn’t being genuine.
As separate skills utilized at separate times, outspokenness and intuition are assets that can lead to success. Combined, they form the personality of a girl with a no-nonsense attitude and an intolerance for social games.
And here’s where my meltdown begins.
In high school, I tried on different versions of myself. I was the social butterfly making as many new friends as possible. I was the warm, welcoming girl who included as many people as possible. I was the girl who had a couple good girlfriends and a really great guy, and ended up losing both. I was the mean girl with a catty group who secretly loved the sense of belonging.
None of the versions fit. None of the expectations for the roles I was playing aligned with who I knew I was. I spent a lot of nights feeling guilty for not enjoying what I was supposed to. I felt confused and overwhelmed. All I longed for were the days I could sit in the shade and enjoy a book, without worrying about what would be whispered about me.
Eventually, I stopped apologizing for not fulfilling the ideals of a perfect mould. I stopped caring about what others’ would think if I skipped parties and kegs or gave up a night with the group to study for an important final.
I never really liked drinking anyways. I didn’t need it to bolster my spirits in order to socialize or have a good time. I can do that all on my own. Drinking made me slow and stupid and those are two things I’m definitely not. I’m quick-witted and smart and those settings just weren’t for me. While the majority of my age group preferred to head to a different party each night of the weekend, I was happy going out for dinner or exploring a new part of town with a few good friends.
Once I stopped apologizing for not being like the others my age, I started having a lot more fun in my life. When I stopped caring about impressing the right people, the truly right people found me.
While I was mistaken about some of those “right” people, I still found my place within my school, career, and friends. I’m still bold and perceptive and I’ve used it to become a leader in my university and in the regional health system. I’ve been a mentor and offered words of wisdom for those following in my footsteps, as well as organized events with those ahead of me.
I’ve done things differently and I’ve thrived.
And yet, sometimes I still feel overwhelmingly out of place.
I’ve been finding it so difficult to feel a real sense of connection. Superficially I get along just fine with (nearly) all of my classmates. But I feel like they’re all so different from me. I know what I’m looking for but I just can’t find it.
I want a challenge. I need a challenge. I want something to kick me out of autopilot and motivate me to give it my all. What scares me most is that the challenge I need may be a person and not a thing. I pride myself on being very self-sufficient. Quite the cliché of the independent woman who doesn’t need a man.
But damn would it be nice to find someone at the level I’m at. Someone who was willing to go on a hike with a rewarding view or waste hours at the mall. Someone to mock crappy television with or discuss the increasingly troubling world news. Someone who is as passionate about making a difference in the world as I am, and who doesn’t think I’m totally insane for thinking it’s possible.
This cliché independent woman wants someone to depend on.
Contradictions inspire the greatest kind of identity crisis, don’t you think?