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Be Yourself...?

It’s okay to evolve. It’s okay to be yourself even if you’re not entirely sure who that is.

I am a huge advocate for self-expression, and I’m all for sheltered kids too afraid of rejection to experiment with all the fashions they’re parents told them were of the devil. But what I really want to examine is how even if you had the freedom and will to do those things already, it’s okay to morph into a different person.

I used to wear contacts. I wore my chocolate brown hair long and swishy and unlayered. I never wore lipstick, only owned skin-toned eye shadow, and didn’t even know how to apply eyeliner. I only ever wore jeans, sometimes even to bed, and had to accessorize every single outfit. And I was skinny. I don’t just mean skinnier than I am now, I mean I’ve put on a literal hundred pounds since high school and I barely look overweight at all. I don’t say that to brag, only to paint a picture of how absurdly thin I was. Smalls hung off my body like I was wearing my brother’s large t-shirts. I listened almost exclusively to Christian contemporary, thought saying darn was cursing, and mostly watched old retro black-and-white sitcoms. I was known as the quiet girl who never got in trouble.

I was raised that way, but it was also just who I was. I had friends (from church, of course), went to school functions (with dates, somehow), and enjoyed going to youth group. I didn’t feel coerced into my religious upbringing, I felt at home in it.

Fast forward to today, and I don’t even recognize that girl. Sometimes I remember things I used to think or say or do, and I genuinely don’t even like that girl.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a woman of the world, but if my teenage counterpart could see who I grew up to be, she’d be praying relentlessly. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. If I want to wear pajamas to the store, who cares? If I want to get drunk with my friends on the weekend and be loud and boisterous and silly, why not? I’m happily divorced, curse like trucker, and watch shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones (dun dun duuuuuunnnn). I pierced my nose, dye my hair every other month, and wear the brightest (or darkest) lip colors I can find. I write creepy, sometimes graphic short stories for my art. Half my family and friends from all those years ago have stopped talking to me altogether. I’m a wayward daughter to be prayed for but not associated with. Some love is conditional, it turns out, whether people want to admit it or not.

The crux of the matter is that these things don’t always feel natural. I LIKE the bands on my playlists. I love the way I look with turquoise streaks in my hair. I enjoy using f*** like a comma (around people I’m comfortable with, I’m not totally disrespectful). But there are times when it feels like a stranger is living in my skin. When people point out how much I’ve changed and suddenly I’m put on defense and I feel like I have to give reasons for why I like what I like these days. I begin to feel guilty that one of my greatest joys in the world is dressing as scene as I know how, going to a pop punk gig, drinking until I can’t feel my lips, jumping until I topple over, head banging till I nearly give myself whiplash, screaming every lyric I know by heart, and scribbling notes on a bar napkin about the new bands I haven’t seen yet so I can review them for my website (when I’m sober).

Occurrence like that make me doubt myself. Maybe I would have been better off staying the way I was. I’d still have the same friends and wouldn’t be shunned my family members. I’d still be married.

It isn’t just me, either. I have friends who used to be goth as they come, and now they’re mega geeks. I have friends who used to be preppy jock types who are outdoorsy guys now. Some used to love superhero movies like they were life support, and now they binge nothing but anime. Ones who used to be willing to sell their souls to play video games all day who haven’t picked up a controller in years because they’re too busy with their band. There’s nothing wrong with anything of these things. But it creates a weird stigma.

“You’ve changed,” old friends tell you. “You used to be so cool. We used to do this together all the time. You’ve gotten so weird. I just don’t get how you like that stuff. I wish we could go back to the good old days.”

Here is where I call bullshit. You are allowed to grow and change however you want to. You are allowed to enjoy whatever feels good to you now. Maybe some of those things remind you of a negative time in your life. Maybe something became more important and you just don’t have time for it anymore. Maybe it just doesn’t hold the same allure for you. That is your prerogative, and that is normal and healthy and good. If you’re not changing, you might be a centuries-old vampire.

Anyone who judges you for that only enjoyed your company when you liked the same things they did. They clearly didn’t value you as a whole person. That’s toxic and it’s a good thing that they lost touched.

My point is that it’s okay to be yourself in this moment. You don’t have to be the you that you once were. The one you fought your parents to be. The one that had the most friends or followers or the one that looked the best. Enjoy your life even if it isn’t the same way you did six months or six years ago. Naysayers be damned.

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