“Just be yourself,” T said in a text message.
In attempt to sort of put myself out there, I joined a trivia league, by myself, knowing I would be put on a team with random strangers who may or may not know each other. The league lasts for only five weeks and there are six people on team. Plus, it only cost $20. So, on Sunday full of hope and gumption, I signed up.
On the launch night of the league, I was the first of my team to show up. I waited about 20 minutes before anyone else arrived and, in that time of patience-less, I texted T. I was nervous that my team wouldn’t show up, or that when they did they wouldn’t like me. T told me to just be me and if I did that then I would be OK. He then told me to put my phone away and enjoy myself.
I had only met T a few months prior and it struck me how much he understood how I operated and how he knew what I really needed to hear at that moment. It took me a second, and then I realized why.
The day I met T I was bouncy. I cracked weird jokes and everything I said came out with energy and life. I was charming and warm. Funny and sweet. Another person I met that day remarked that every time he saw me I was dancing.
I recognized my energy that day and it sort of took me by surprise because I hadn’t seen it that intense in a while. It wasn’t until T sent me the message on the night of my first trivia night did I realize what had happened that day – I was myself. Unrestricted. Unapologetic. Just me.
And that’s how I got to this moment with T where I was seeking comfort from him in awkward time. I was me, he embraced that, and we started a friendship in authenticity.
I’ve been in a lot of new and uncomfortable situations in the last year, from moving to D.C. and then to Chicago. I’ve been on awkward dates and in social circles where no one knows what to say. I’ve tried to be pieces of myself, putting out only the parts I think others would accept, and have come up empty handed. Yet, in the rare moments when I have just unleashed me – in all of my loving, sweet, chaotic, messy ways – I’ve found something honest and true. It’s in those times I’ve made the friends I can call at 2 a.m. if I am locked out or the people who will come when I invite them to something. It’s when I forget about impressing other people and their opinions and just let that light shine that I am given what I need.
Being true to yourself, as cliché as it seems, is incredibly difficult, yet one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It may take us some time and maybe we can’t be that way with everyone, but we owe it to our wonderful unique selves not to hold back. Rather, to be everything we are, blemishes and all.
I saw T’s message, and I put down my phone. I bounced a bit and then made a weird joke. I was sweet and funny. Caring and charming. I don’t need people to like me, I just need to be me.