You don’t have to be how anyone else expects you to be.
And not in some hedonistic way – because you don’t have to do everything you want to do either.
I knew I liked computers when I was little – not so much the hardware part of them, but the infinite worlds that lived inside a computer with an internet connection. For better or for worse, my parents let me use the computer in our living room when I was pretty young, so I remember finding the fascinating world of RPGs (you can read more here) when I was 9.
Message board RPGs let me flex my burgeoning creative writing skills, explore early user interfaces, and learn basic HTML and CSS (helpful for coding emails 15 years later). I wrote long, involved signatures with character details like physical traits, family trees, and life events. A vast majority of them had to do with teenagers finding adventure at boarding schools, probably fueled by my love of Harry Potter.
I loved using the computer. Given the choice between it and playing outside on a summer day, I would have chosen the former every time. In 2018, I am regretful to say that I no longer spend my time creating fantastical characters in scantly-trodden corners of the internet, but learning about technology and groups of people are still two of my favorite things.
You don’t have to want to go to happy hour every night and you don’t have to want to keep buying workout clothes until you have more pairs of leggings than the yoga classes you could possibly go to. You don’t have to be energized by the Saturday afternoon roar of the football crowd at a sports bar.
(You can, but you don’t have to.)
You’re allowed to cook in your tiny little apartment and bring your lunch to work and eat what you want and not eat salads for every meal. You’re allowed to crave solitude from living in such a congested place, from the bodies jostled together on the train over the Williamsburg Bridge in the bleary mornings and right back as the sun sets a fire over the whole town. You’re allowed to make your regular trips to the pizza place around the corner and to the grocery store with the cramped aisles and come back just to sit cross-legged on the couch. You can stop to think and give yourself time to compose thoughts, or your response, and you don’t have to know everything all the time.
You know you’re allowed to, cognitively, but every day the hurriedness of coworkers and the brusqueness of those on the train and on the street, it says “Try being like me; it’s the way we do things.”
You don’t have to laugh at all the same jokes and you don’t have to agree with everything said. You can laugh at what you truly find funny and speak up when you or someone else are being hurt. You can use your voice and use it again and again and again; learn to flex the vulnerability muscle that is simultaneously scary and revolutionary.
You can be all these things without building a bridge between yourself and others – in fact, you can use who you are to connect more authentically. You can not be afraid of who you are and not be afraid of who others are either.