I try really hard all the time.
I imagine that’s still not cool to admit. In the weird subculture of the retirement town I grew up in, few insults were more jarring than the ones about “putting on a show.” While it terrifies me to publish my Kryptonite on the internet, it’s true that appearing disingenuous is one of my biggest fears.
Very few movie scenes have resonated with me more than the one at the end of Juno, where Ellen Page and Michael Cera are finally together and she’s lamenting about how cool he is. He replies, so calmly:
Something about that line made my 8th grade body want to do a backflip. Like, hell yeah Michael Cera! Me too! You say that like it’s not a bad thing!
It’s true that moving to college and joining a Greek organization makes a large campus smaller, but it has its cons as well — I spend a fair amount of time talking wistfully to my roommate about the day we move to a city where no one knows our name. I daydream about the idea of waking up and being a completely different person and having no qualms or inhibitions about it.
This is not to say I don’t love my life or value my commitments; I do, wholeheartedly. But I think this is the other kind of senioritis, the kind people talk about less — I’ve reached the point in my college career where I feel so sure that soon I will be entirely new. It feels like a door that’s always slightly open and just out of reach.
I’ve always been the kind of person who is decidedly different every year. Maybe it’s the Sagittarius in me, but my high school self took phases very seriously. Phases are liberating. They give girls like me with no idea who they want to be the opportunity to reinvent themselves at the break of every summer.
I love New Year’s resolutions. I love birthdays. I love the way mornings feel on the days I have chosen to be completely, unapologetically happy. If I’m being honest, I love pretty much everything, if I think about it hard enough. Or if I decide to.
The point is, I can’t wake up tomorrow and decide to be the kind of girl who has bright blue hair and two pierced nostrils. Being that girl could make me really happy — but like I said, everything pretty much could. Not only do I think my recruitment chair would murder me, but it just wouldn’t make sense in the social environment I’ve settled into. And that’s fine.
But being watched, or being “held accountable,” in sorority terms, doesn’t mean I can’t change who I am when I see fit. Call it good parenting, but I’ve always been profoundly sure that I can be, at any time, anyone I decide to. I’m pretty sure that anyone will love me if I spend enough time badgering them into it. I really hope I pass that blind social confidence down to my children.
My advice, then, to anyone interested, is to reinvent yourself from the ground up as soon as you feel the need to. Erase everything they’ve ever known of you. Keep the things you like, trash the things you don’t, shrug and say “I dunno,” when people ask where you’ve been or why you seem different lately. In youth, you don’t owe anyone your consistency. You can strive to be genuine, but don’t let the fear of someone noticing your shift keep you from making the first move.
There are some things you should always decide to be: kind, thoughtful, generous and empathetic, to start. Any other expectations are just products of your environment, and as long as the choices you make don’t harm or inhibit anyone else, you should feel entirely free to make them. The only sage wisdom I’m able to offer is that which comes from being a dozen different people so far: no one ever really notices, so do whatever the hell you want.