Chill is a word that other people are constantly using to describe me.
It’s not a term I coined for myself.
Growing up, I was deeply, inherently unchill. I was emotional and scattered, in a family full of cool-headed and put-together people. I had mood swings. I had anxiety issues. I had a whole host of unchill behaviors that followed me around and wreaked havoc on my personal and social life until a solid three years into high school.
And then I grew up and chilled the hell out.
It’s not so much that I got any less neurotic in my twenties – it’s just that I learned to channel my own obsessiveness in more productive ways. I became neurotic about my work. I became obsessive about my life trajectory. I cared deeply and passionately about the areas of my life that truly mattered, and others I didn’t waste time on.
And so my ‘chill girl’ persona was born.
I got called ‘chill’ by guys I was casually sleeping with, because I didn’t pester them for a relationship.
I got called ‘chill’ by friends who travelled with me because I was always down to go out and party.
I got called ‘chill’ by any acquaintance who knew me just well enough to understand that I’d been around the block a few times and wasn’t shocked by much of what they might admit or propose to me.
My rampant open-mindedness and thirst for new experiences were seemingly synonymous with the word ‘chill’ and for a while that didn’t bother me at all. It seemed like a good thing, to be chill.
It was what all of the Internet was vying for. It meant people were comfortable and open around me, and I liked that.
Until I started to realize that the term ‘chill’ was a double-edged sword.
It turns out, many people equate the term ‘chill’ to the term ‘unemotional.’ They assume that your easy-going nature is a product of genuinely not caring about much of what happens in your life and so by extension, they don’t have to care either.
And as it turns out, it isn’t always fun to be thought of as ‘chill.’
It isn’t fun to be thought of as chill when people bail on commitments they’ve made with you and assume that you’re not going to mind.
It isn’t fun to be thought of as chill when someone you’re crazy about offhandedly refers to you as ‘one of the guys.’
It isn’t fun to be thought of as chill when people think they can blur the lines of consent because you ‘like to have a good time.’
It isn’t fun to be thought of as chill when you finally muster up the courage to admit you need help or support with something major and are waved off because people assume that you’ll either figure it out on your own or forget about it.
Being chill stops being aspirational when everyone around you starts assuming that having a laid-back demeanor disqualifies you from harboring real emotions. That everything just rolls off your back.
Because that’s exactly when being perceived as ‘chill’ gets a whole lot less quirky and fun: When people stop taking you seriously because of it.
The truth about chill girls (or guys) is that we’re never as chill as you think we are.
I don’t care if we get Korean or Italian food for dinner. I’m down to come to your sex-positive warehouse party that started ten minutes ago. I see various sides of most situations and find it genuinely difficult to pass judgment on others as a result.
But I care a fucking lot about what matters.
I care about the people in my life and my relationships with them. I care about my safety and health and well-being. I care about where I am going in life and who is going there with me and what I have to offer to the world.
I give a shit about things that aren’t apparent if you meet me at a party or in a coffee shop or if you’re mindlessly scrolling through my twitter.
I am chill about the small, pesky everyday issues because I am deeply unchill about the big picture.
And the same can be said of most ‘chill’ people.
If I spend ten minutes arguing with the Starbucks barista about the definition of the word ‘foam,’ I’m losing ten valuable minutest of work time. If I am judging the outfit so-and-so put on this morning, I am sacrificing positive energy that I could be directing toward goal-setting. If I stopped and took the time to freak out about every passing day-to-day concern, I wouldn’t have half of the energy that I do have to devote toward my long-term objectives.
Call it ‘chill’ when someone holds different priorities than you do, sure.
But just know that behind every person you call ‘chill’ is a person who cares deeply, intensely and fiercely about something else out there.
Just probably not the same thing as you.