It was a slow night at my high school workplace when a customer approached me to ask if we had any more of a particular plate she liked. I had just started working at this department store a few weeks ago and I was super excited to get some work experience and finally get a steady stream of income.
I smiled at the customer but almost immediately after looking at the plate I knew it was one of the last ones. The customer’s face fell as I told her, so I offered to call another store and asked if they had any.
I called one store, and then another, and then a third. All across town, it seemed like this mysterious plate was totally sold out. The customer was disappointed, but thanked me for giving it my best shot.
As I walked away from the telephone at the front of the store, an older co-worker pulled me aside.
“A lot of the guys here,” she said quietly, “Don’t like that you work so hard. We’re all just here to clock in and clock out, not to show off, so maybe try to chill out a little?”
Back when I still thought I liked girls I was crushing on a woman from across the hall in my freshman year dorm. I had had a few awesome (and promising) conversations with her, and was telling one of my roommates about how we were texting every day now (!!).
“Hmmm,” My roommate paused, “Maybe you, ya know, shouldn’t text her back all the time.”
“Why?” My absolutely clueless past-self responded.
“Because,” My roommate responded as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “You don’t want to look interested. Interested people look lame. You want to be chill, chicks really dig chill.”
Our generation has become obsessed with the idea of being “chill.” If we had a millennial Olympics, surely one of the competitions would be “Who Can Give The Absolute Least Fucks About Anything,” or “Who Can Pretend To Be Okay When They Actually Have A Ton Of Feels,” which are both just fancy ways of saying, “Who Can Be The Most Chill.” We are infatuated with the concept of being “chill” and I hate it.
When someone asks us to “chill” they are asking us to care less. They are asking us to settle. They are asking us to validate a life lived at less than 100%, and from this moment on, I refuse.
I refuse to sit with icy indifference when I am bursting with emotion. I refuse to coolly nod, “Sup?” to someone I am madly in love with. I refuse to be shackled by people who’d prefer to see me achieve less than my best.
I refuse to suppress my emotions. Sometimes I will cry. Sometimes I will erupt with anger. Sometimes I will write everyone I know a cute card, because I love the people in my life and I absolutely refuse to waste one minute of my life pretending to care less. I will not desensitize myself for no purpose.
I refuse to settle in my career. I won’t pretend to not care about my work or radiate caustic unenthusiasm. I will not settle for mediocrity, nor will I join a chorus of apathetic co-workers who want to do “just enough” to punch out at the end of the day. I will be ambitious, I will reach for the next rung on the ladder, I will be the very best employee I can be. No matter if I work as a corporate executive or as a custodian I want people to say: “I remember that guy, and he did a kickass job!”
I refuse to live with regrets. I will chase every open door, every love interest, every single opportunity with a full heart. I want to throw myself into love. I will probably run into roadblocks, but I will sprint into them at full force. I’m not going to stare at my phone and play mind games about when to text someone, or send a snapchat, or follow a crush back on Twitter. I’m not going to wake up fifty years from now and wonder what would have happened if I talked to that cute guy at the bar. People will call me spazzy, people will say I am a hopeless romantic, people will think I am weird, and those people will be right, but — unlike them — I will never wonder “what if.”
I will care too much sometimes. My heart will be broken, my high expectations will be met with disappointment, and my enthusiasm will be judged.
I will let myself down sometimes. I will run away from the world and hide. I will ghost on someone who deserves better, I will miss a big promotion at work, I will get wrapped up into life’s drama, and I will cry.
And I won’t pretend to be okay. I will talk my best friend’s ear off, and maybe visit my old therapist whose waiting room smells of cats. I will buy bottles of wine, eat way too much Taco Bell and ice cream, and try to make a list of reason “why I’m actually okay” before getting wine-drunk and passing out on my sofa. And absolutely none of it will be “chill.”
I will be authentic, I will be honest, and I will be unabashedly myself. And because of that things will always somehow work out in the end.
I refuse to be repressed.
I refuse to be tempered.
I refuse to reign myself in so that others feel comfortable settling for less.
I refuse to be chill — and so should you.