As we enter another school year there are some things that I wish I had been told when I was a kid/teenager/freshman. One of the biggest would have been that it’s OKAY to grow out of childhood friendships. The other would be that finding close friends as an adult can be difficult, but is completely worth it because once you know who you are it’s easier to discover those with a like mind.
I do not mean to negate the friendships I forged in childhood. They were wonderful while they lasted but the reality is that children inevitably grow up, and in many instances (at least in my case), grow apart. Interests and personalities change, especially during puberty.
I was not a normal kid. This will come as no surprise to those who know me well – which up until 9 years ago consisted of my family and two friends, one of whom I had not seen in years. It wasn’t until I transferred to a four year college that I finally found a small core of people around whom I felt comfortable enough to be myself.
I have a tendency to be too sarcastic, I occasionally cut in while others are talking, I make jokes that are inappropriate and say things out of left field and most of all – I am extremely sensitive. My family has been aware of all this since the day I was born. I was always this way. I am working on some things, i.e. interrupting others, but most of it is just how I’m wired. What can I say; I’ve never been very good at hiding my emotions or mood. It is one of the biggest character traits that I have and yet it has taken me my entire life to finally accept and appreciate.
The problem growing up was that I was always too afraid to let my ‘freak flag fly’, as it were, for fear of judgment. I was terrified that if people got to know the crazy side of me, they would think me too weird to be around, that they wouldn’t get the joke and or would simply misunderstand me altogether. This isn’t to say that I put on an act around others, but I did hold back. I still do, depending on the occasion. Sometimes people just don’t need to hear me laughing hysterically at a joke that only I find funny. Needless to say – holding back took a toll on my search for meaningful friendship.
That all changed when I turned 20 and met people who made me feel like I could be ridiculous. I count them among my greatest confidants, outside of my family. It turned out that my personality wasn’t flawed, my environment was. Over the last ten years I have entered various environments that have allowed me to create some of the strongest friendships I have ever known. Through running I have met many of the women who I am fortunate enough to call my friends. As someone who always felt that men were more relatable, the realization that there were women who shared my interests and understood (or at least accepted) my sense of humor was a revelation.
It may sound like a greeting card, but friendship is truly one of the most enriching relationships you will ever know. Finding people who not only see the real you, but WANT to be around the real you, is the best feeling in the world. The honesty that comes with being a friend is practically unfathomable.
So, if you feel out of place or that you can’t be your full self, have no fear. There WILL come a day when you will come across the people you CAN be comfortable around. And if you have friends you can’t be yourself around, then it’s probably time to let them go. It’s difficult, I know, I’ve been there. But when you are not being true to yourself, you aren’t really living. I am so thankful for the people who have accepted me into their lives and am equally grateful for having them be a part of mine. So let your freak flag fly, it’s what makes you, you.
(This post was inspired by the passing of Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch, two amazingly talented women who didn’t give a crap what anyone thought of them)