(I think this may be my third time attempting to pull together my thoughts over the past several days since getting out of school…)
For those of you who don’t know, I am not an only child. Yes, I am the middle of the three of us: my older brother, who introduced me to real music, graduated from SLU last spring, has a lovely apartment just about two minutes away from Fontbonne in the ever fancy Clayton area and an exciting job here; and my younger sister, a child the exact opposite of me in that she’s a talkative slacker who plays volleyball and basketball and whose idea of good music is blasting Taylor Swift as I’m trying to study. If we never, ever, ever hear that stupid T-Swift CD again, well, I can’t say I’d be that upset. Anyhow, my little sis hasn’t even been on summer break for a week yet, but already I can’t help but wonder how that kid is not bored out of her mind. Anytime I see her, there she is, on the couch, Disney Channel playing in the background, her head bent over her iPod touch. I wish she knew what she’s too young to understand yet, something I’ve come to realize in the past weeks in my existential brooding: that she needs to stop worrying so much about everyone else’s life and start living her own. That she needs to stop comparing herself to others, and stop holding their opinions of her in such high esteem, because all that really matters, in the end, is what she thinks of herself. That her hair and her clothes and life in general aren’t necessarily going to be as perfect as Instagram may want her to think it needs to be, but that imperfection is where the real beauty of life is. And that the fact that she’s not perfect doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not the person she wants to be.
I say these things for the both us: her, because she spends so much of her time on social media, wasting her little eighth-grader time on false projections of other people’s worlds, and me, because I spend so much time seeking the validation of other people, seeking and striving for a picture-perfect life, thinking that once I achieve both of those things, once I look like I walked out of an REI catalog and I live somewhere truly fantastical, I will be the person I want to be, I will be the best version of me. Because now I’m starting to question the logic of all of this.
A few nights ago, I really hit rock bottom with it all. My father also likes to spend a lot of his time, when he’s not flying planes, sitting on his iPad. (It drives me mad, the amount of time people waste on these things!) I sat down on the couch opposite of his, glad that the only real light in the room was coming from the glow of the screen, which he flashed in my face before asking what was wrong. I sat in silence for a while, trying to calm my breathing so he couldn’t hear the tears or shake in my voice. When he asked gently again, I finally told him: “I feel stuck.”
At the time, I was going through this panic of, “I don’t remember who I am or who I want to be anymore, because everything seems to be pulling me in different directions.” But the other night, I remembered the real me, the person I neglected this school year. She’s there inside of me still, wondering when it’s time to come out of hibernation already. She is the best version of me, and I know what I need to do this summer to get to her before school starts again.
This version of myself, I’ve come to realize, isn’t perfect. She is the best me I can be, yeah, but definitely not perfect. She doesn’t dress like an REI model. I’ve gone to REI frequently now, hoping to find myself among the outrageously priced sleeping bags, but honestly, camping gear doesn’t get me excited like I tell myself it should if I want to be able to call myself “outdoorsy”. I’ve come to realize that that’s okay. That I can still love the outdoors and the feelings I get from it even if I don’t wear cargo shorts and hiking boots (can you imagine??). I’ve also come to realize that this girl is not a city girl. She feels horribly cramped in St. Louis, where she can’t see the sky and the stars and the open fields and breathe the clean air and be alone in the peace and quiet. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay too. Going home doesn’t make her a baby if home is the only place right now where she can experience these things that make her feel like herself after being cramped for a week at school.
As I was driving home this afternoon from a trip to the city, I thought about it. Just because life isn’t perfect, or that I’m not this perfect vision of myself that I have in my mind, does that necessarily mean that I’m not all the things I want to be? Maybe not. Maybe that perfect version isn’t so perfect after all, because she’s not really, authentically me.
As I was sitting there in the darkened room after the sun had set, choking back tears, wondering where myself had gone off to and if I’d ever find her again, my dad tossed out, “It’s all about the journey.” (He’s been doing yoga a lot lately.) Indeed. I need to let go of everyone else’s journey, let go of this idea of perfection, and see myself for who and what I really am.
Because maybe everything I want to be is already inside of me and I just don’t see it yet. Maybe the journey is all about truly listening to myself, embracing it all, letting it out, and truly living to my full potential, rather than trying to change myself to be perfect or like something I’m not.
Heavy stuff, I know. Here’s to a summer of letting go of the bad, and embracing, once and for all, reality and everything good about it.
“Real Life” by Tanlines (How am I not SICK of this CD yet?)