Within the varied relationships in my life, specifically my friendships, there exists a really interesting dichotomy: There are the people who’ve known me my entire life, or at the very least, a good portion of my life, who think of me as a really, generally ‘together’ person. To them, I am responsible, I always arrive on time, I am the designated driver more often than not, I am in charge of dinner reservations, travel plans and making sure everyone is where they need to be and not throwing up anywhere too public. Then there are the people who met me 2013 or later. Overall, to these people, I am a train wreck. To them, my life is always in shambles, I’m always making terrible choices and I just can’t seem to clean it up. Amongst one group of friends, I am the most grownup while amongst the other, I am the smallest baby.
For a while I couldn’t figure out why these people, who in the past year and a half I’ve come to really, really love, saw me as such a walking disaster. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I’d done to deserve the reputation of being such a hot mess. My [very good] friend (the very same friend who I maybe unfairly called out for calling me like-a-man in a previous post…) also recently voiced his confusion about my reputation to me, which made me wonder about it even further. He’s only really known me a few months, but he’s gotten a good enough grip to understand that generally, I do okay for myself.
(Here’s the part where I make it up to him for telling the internet he’s a misogynist when he’s not at all and actually just made a joke at my expense that he wasn’t close to being the first person to make) We had a conversation really recently about why it is that I’m perceived the way I am and he said to me “They don’t know you that well. Because getting to know you, I realize that you’re not at all who they make you out to be”.
In that moment, the sun shone out of my face. I’d spent the last year and a half-ish hinged on the acceptance and validation of these people who really, truly believe for some unfathomable reason that I’m a disaster. And in that time, I’d slowly started to believe that about myself and I’d started to do things and act ways that reinforced that reputation. What a horrible, vicious circle.
So there I am, going about my business, thanking the universe that someone doesn’t think I’m failing at life and then, it happened. One day at work I was bopping around the internet reading lists of things I have to do as a woman to not die before I’m 30 and one jumped out at me.
10 Important, Independent Lessons Every Girl Should Learn While She’s Single (link at the bottom)
Pretty positive this was going to be a list encouraging me to go out and get drunk as often as possible, I clicked on it despite my growing hatred for these stupid lists. Most of these things, although they made sense, had been said to me over and over again. One of them, though (item #2, specifically), it was a revelation:
2. Mastering the Art of Self-Soothing
It’s great to have someone around to take care of you when you’re sick, hug you when you’re sad, or just listen to your problems.
For the times you don’t have that, however, you should learn to master the art of self-soothing. This is when a nice bottle of wine and a hot bubble bath comes in. It’s always good to be able to brush yourself off and keep going.
This is why my new friends think I am a disaster. I do not possess the skill to do this. Yet. I look like a disaster all the time! I’m doing this to myself!
I have said countless times that my great skill in life was being a student. I was so, so good at school. I never needed help. But then, school ended. And it was suddenly up to me to figure it out and navigate life on my own. And here I was, fresh out of college in my big girl job and I had no idea what the fuck to do. So surrounding me, here are all these 24-30 year old people, who have it slightly more figured out than I do. So, every time something is just a little bit wrong, I obsess and I go on about it for days to anyone who will listen. All I have to do is shut up! I don’t have confidence in the decisions I make – which I know are right and correct – without having them endorsed by these people who I’ve come to rely on to validate everything I do. I find myself sometimes asking questions I already know the answers to. And that, my friends, is ridiculous. I spent the first 22 years of my life as a super smart, independent person. I can do this.
How do I expect to live my life if I require validation from everyone for literally everything I decide?
I need to learn to live my grownup life without assistance. I need to learn to be confident in my own choices, live my life and own it. And when things suck, I need to learn to figure it out on my own, have a couple glasses of wine and stumble through it. Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life goes on and nothing is the worst thing that can happen. It’s nice to have friends to rely on, don’t get me wrong. It’s also nice to be able to do things on your own. (By on my own, I mean under the general supervision of my mom, of course).
So, Thank you anonymous friend [and Jen Ruiz at Elite Daily] for kicking me square in the ass. I could not be more grateful.