There was a point in my life when I sincerely didn’t understand the concept of the individual — I instead saw my 4-foot nothing, curly-headed self as a small part of a working family, a part of a herd of people who went to church every weekend clad in their Sunday best followed by Coney Dogs at Leo’s, attended Oakley Park Elementary School and who only shopped at Limited Too. Saturdays were usually spent playing “house” in my cousin’s basement and like clock work I’d see my counterparts at the bus stop at 7am every Monday morning. Donning matching Gymboree backpacks that bobbed underneath our nearly identical haircuts with every fearless step, you’d think my cousin and I were Mary Kate and Ashley as we sat side-by-side on the bus every morning. We were in this together. I liked it that way.
And that’s who I was. Who else would I be?
That is until I realized I was me—a person of entirely different thoughts, experiences and idiosyncrasies. A person who’s 7th grade love for emo alternative bands and a raucous rebellious streak was completely unmet by her counterparts. A person who no longer chased solace through supervised boy-girl parties complete with stale chips and awkward games of spin the bottle, and who was beginning to realize that being an offspring of my parents didn’t utterly define who I was. An adolescent who was discovering that being “the weird one” wasn’t always so bad.
And that’s who I was; even for just that one Fall Out Boy chorus.
With college came an insatiable thirst to break through to the other side, whatever that was—to push the boundaries of normalcy and the banality of genetics—seemingly an inevitable counter-reaction to my counterparts. I flourished in the world of intellect and hasty debauchery, if only just to feel something for that moment. Maybe being an English major was nearly unheard of and reverting to an almost nocturnal lifestyle was unconventional, but that’s what I did.
And that’s who I was; even for just those four years.
Through my cliché coming-of-age after school special, I’ve realized that you’ll never find happiness through self-censorship and a ceaseless derangement of your true reflexes, whether they’re boring, ugly, enchanting or simply cause your Catholic Grandmother utter bewilderment and you eternal scrutiny. Is succumbing to what’s expected, even just for the sanctity of fitting in, really living at all? Know that you will never be or feel more beautiful than when being yourself, even if you can’t see the floor of your room and you now believe that purple hair dye best complements your complexion. Even if you keep a small bottle of ranch dressing in your purse in case of emergencies and you spend your Saturday nights reorganizing your closet by color. Even if you want to hitch hike away from home in search of life, and the next day you decide to pursue your dream of becoming a marine biologist instead. Even for just that moment, that’s who you are. And you’re alive.
And this is who I am; even just for today.