Applesauce is interesting. I’ve hard it lots of times. I mean, here in the good ‘ol U.S of A, it’s the premire children’s snack. Well, apart from a healthy dose of Goldfish, Cheetos, and other corn syrup-laced foods. Yet, if you were to ask me how applesauce tastes, I’m not sure I could really describe it other than “like applesauce”. Is its’ taste distinct? Does it have a texture and feel all of its’ own? Yes. It’s unique, and yet not easily known, despite how much I’ve tasted it over the years. Kinda like people.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I haven’t tasted a human being beyond their words, actions, and that one time I stole/shared a friend’s macchiato. Yet if I were to break a human up into flavors, what would I taste? Is confidence sweet, or savory? Does anxiety have a different texture than melancholy? More than unfiltered emotion, yet less than bitter logic, the human experience has a range of flavors. Each resonates with us, giving a tang to life that makes it unique, yet giving it an edge that’s hard to swallow at times. Worse when the taste itself becomes unfamiliar, life itself leaving the mind heavy, and the palate clouded.
In a world with so many flavors, what makes mine distinct? If everyone thinks they’re special, am I? Do my choices matter?
I’ve never really struggled with confidence. It just wasn’t my thing. In high school, I was content to leave self-doubt to those around me who needed help. After all, I’ll always be me, and that’s totally enough, right? Equal parts sheltered and naiive, I had no idea what my truly formative years would bring. Over the span of 2016 through 2017, I both lost and gained good friends, lost and gained life skills, lost and gained semi-equal amounts of sanity, and both lost and am regaining myself. Or at least, my sense of self.
In the same way that repeated exposure to the same flavor dulls the taste of it to your mouth (the reasoning being something something dopamine something something brain something science), repeated exposure to people that were similar to me as a budding homeschooler served to cause me to look inward at what made me unique. What made me who I was, what gave me that insane spark that everyone loved to laugh with and laugh at. College, however, was a different animal altogether. Everyone was different. Everyone was unique. Yet, in such a place, where did I fit in? If there are 10 guys just as weird and funny and off the wall as I am, what’s the point of me even trying? How do I even know I’m the best person for anyone around me to be friends with, when there are so many other options?
I suppose college was a way to rid myself of the “hero” complex I’d somewhat developed over the years of counseling various friends, but at the same time it made me feel…diluted. As if my very presence was hollow, a shell of it’s former self. I wasn’t sure who to be, or how to be what I used to be. So, being the enterprising individual I am, I took the most rational path and in my first semester became a meme of myself. Given that I am pretty much a walking meme already, this took my goofiness a bit over-the-top, and I ended up giving myself a reputation for not being serious and not really caring. That wasn’t who I was, nor was it who I wanted to be, but it was the easiest mindset to slip into.
Moving into my second semester and my second year, I became far more toned down, in an attempt to capture the cool, logical side of myself that was good at giving advice. Yet toned-down goofs made for a drier verion of me, one that was too frightened of doing things wrong, and who didn’t nearly brighten the lives of others as much as he wanted to. Ruled by fear, tinged with love, that was a darker time in my life, when the fear of my own inadequacy and the emptiness of self really hit home for me.
I’m not sure what I was looking for. I’d felt as though I’d lost myself. As if, the present version of me was somehow inferior to the previous me. Indeed, my younger years held some weird nostalgic sheen, as if I’d been such a more well-put together person back then. In some ways, I was. Stability doesn’t equate to maturity, however; I’m for happier to be who I am now than an awkward 14-year-old. Yet that type of comparison, that discontentment with myself, was what drove me. For the first time in my life, I didn’t like myself.
Realizing that was scarier than running out of Tide Pods, minus the hope of getting more. I was uncertain of how to live, where to go next, and how my supposed faith in God fit in any of it. I tried to reconcile myself with the Bible, yet all I seemed to find were comforting words that lacked substance. I was at a loss.
How could I have lived in the same body for 19 years, and feel like I didn’t know who I was?
For the first time, I felt unsure of who I was. I questioned my motives, my personality. For a brief time, I wondered if I was losing my mind. In the middle of all this internal intrigue, I had to deal with school, and people, and the boatload of issues that come with all of that. So I put on masks, donned fascades of myself, tried to make the best of it. Tried to find myself by pretending to be me. In some ways, a comfort; in other ways, a curse. My constant worry was whether I was being genuine, if I was showing enough sincerity, and if others even enjoyed my presence. Fear was my fuel, and it drove me to the edge of my sanity.
Social butterfly though I was, the worst part of this was that I never told anyone. I felt alone, but I didn’t feel my problems were worth worrying others about. Why bother trying to explain how I feel when I’m not even sure how I feel? My masks supported me for the majority of 2017, until one fateful, anxious night, I asked myself one question. In the midst of worrying if I was me, if I was being genuine, if I even knew what it was to be me, I found myself asking “who cares?” If my own self, my own being, is decided by my own decisions, then the opinions of others shouldn’t be my top priority. In being myself, I let my own desires, loves, passions, and ideas thrive and grow, and through that I influence others. By being me, the person God made me to be and not the person I think people want me to be, I find my true self. I find satisfaction, and joy, and peace.
I guess it’s been kind of a waste of 1200 words at this point just to say “be yourself”, but that’s honestly hard to do at times. Maybe it was harder for me, since as a homeschooler my transition into college was quite jarring. In the end, no matter what you’re facing or going through, remember that you will always still be you. It doesn’t matter what others think, it doesn’t matter who you were in the past, you decide who you are right now. And that’s all that matters.