Today’s writing prompt was to write a letter to our younger self. Often these are written to the author as a child or young adult. I was too damn stubborn to listen to anybody at those phases in my life, so I thought it might be more interesting to target this toward myself about 10 years ago – someone who had come a long way but still with a lot to learn.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this – don’t waste too much time trying to make reality match the image in your head. It’s good to have principles, but you also have to see the reality on the ground. There’s no rule that requires you to affiliate with anyone you don’t enjoy being around, even if you like something that they stand for.
I know you’re super self-conscious about not forcing yourself where you’re not wanted. Like a lot of things that trigger self-consciousness, there’s a kernel of truth here; i.e., you have a history of doing exactly that. But just because you like the idea of something doesn’t mean it’s going to work out for you. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or them – only that you’re not a good fit together.
That doesn’t mean you should bail at the first sign of trouble. But if you feel crappy after being around certain people week in, week out – it’s OK to find other ways to spend your time.
This is only an educated guess, but I’m going to say it anyway – I think what you’re really looking for is an identity. You’ve never felt comfortable with the identities that others have tried to impose or that you’ve tried on for yourself. But the thing is, other people can’t give you that, anyway. Even people you like.
Are all the people who seem to have very solid identities faking it, or do they have something you don’t? I wish I had an answer for you, but since we can never be completely sure of another person’s experience, I can’t really say. I imagine some people are faking it, and others are lucky enough to be in an environment that reinforces who they feel comfortable being.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that most people are generally more comfortable with the default options in life than you are. That doesn’t make anybody right or wrong, but it means you’ll have to work harder to put together the life you want.
The upside is that you can help people in similar situations. You already know that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t affirmed by their current circumstances. You can use your experience to help those people. You can also use your education and the privilege that you do have to shine a light on situations that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve.
You’re not in survival mode anymore. You don’t have to waste your time on people who aren’t going to get you. There’s a reason people talk about finding your tribe. In the long term, you need to be around people who support you. If that’s not the case, you need to find new people.
Sure, it gets harder as you get older, but it’s still possible. Would you rather not put in the work and be miserable, or put in the work for a chance at happiness? That’s what I thought.
I know you better than anyone. You got this.