When I look back over my teen years, I cannot believe the massive amounts of time I spent giving a sh*t about what people thought of me. Growing up, I always had to be a people pleaser—I had to be friends with everyone, say the right things, do the right things, wear the right clothes, and fit in so perfectly that any error would cause disruption to the hegemony around me. There was just no room for error, no room for difference. Although I have always been different than the people I’ve surrounded myself with, my difference had always given me anxiety.
Despite the anxiety that it gave me when I was constantly reminded of the difference, I’ve always been set apart from everyone else. I’ve always been unapologetically loud and obnoxious. I talk way too much and laugh extremely loud. Of the many things people love about me, I have always been told that my personality is the greatest. This was something that, to this day, I will never change.
Maybe it was because I was in grade school, and any and everything you did was under a microscope, or simply because I went to school with the stereotypical ‘mean girls’ who operated within the boundaries of an ignorant social hierarchy, but I was obsessed with my public image. I wanted everyone to like me. I found myself walking on eggshells most of the time because I was so afraid of being talked about. I feared not being liked, not fitting in, and standing out amongst a crowd of people who, at the time, seemed to control public perception. If anyone said anything bad about me, it was the end of the world.
At some point in your life, you stop giving a sh*t. I think that point, for me, was towards the end of high school. I used to get picked on a lot over the four years. Boys made me cry all the time, girls put mean notes in my P.E. locker, made fun of the way I looked or dressed, made fun of how dark my skin was, called me fat, and said and did all kinds of other things that destroyed me inside every single day.
I doubt any of the kids who made fun of me remember the stuff they did or said. A couple of them apologized to me via social media not too long ago, and I have since forgiven them. I figured that immaturity was the main reason they chose to pick on me, but I have since moved on, and cannot speak as to why they were the way they were.
When college began, my biggest fear was that it would be just like high school. I felt like people would just gravitate towards making fun of me like they did in high school, and it gave me a great deal of anxiety. Since I stick out here at UO, I thought that I would always be a target for people to get their laughs from. I imagined that college would operate within the same social guidelines, and the thought of that terrified me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Perhaps the thing I love most about college is that there is free reign to be who you are. I came here a year and a half ago, absolutely terrified that people would be mean to me, call me the same names they did in high school, and I wouldn’t even be able to make any friends because the school is so big. From the beginning of freshman year to now, I have been the same version of myself that I have always been, except I don’t care who doesn’t like it.
Admittedly, I got to college and went into complete shock with the amount of freedom I now had, and how no one (and, I mean absolutely no one) cares about what you do. You can fall asleep with your mouth wide open in the library and everyone understands. You can cry in the middle of class and no one looks at you weird because we’ve all been there. No one cares what you look like during the week or what you do with your free time. You’re just you, moving about the same way as everyone else.
I can honestly say that I have had a typical college experience so far. I won’t elaborate, but anyone can read between the lines, or watch my Snapchat story between Thursday night and Sunday morning and figure out what I mean. I wouldn’t trade any experience I have had so far for the world.
Judgment came with realizing that I no longer cared what people thought. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t come from people I was at school with, but from people back home. This was weird to me—people I had grown up with, who had known how hard I struggled with being myself, started to think that they were better and above me, just because they didn’t go out and do the things that I did.
I never asked them what they thought about my life because I had reached a point where I truly did not care. I was having fun, growing into myself, experiencing things that I never got to experience back in high school. I had somewhat of a strict upbringing, so I seldom left the house. But I was having fun, I was living life, and these so-called friends from home thought they could judge me. I have never been one to take judgment kindly, especially when it is hateful. Where I would have probably cried, or done anything in my power to change what they saw in me, I decided that I didn’t need friends who judged me. So, I dropped them like a bad habit.
I think that the reason I have found it easy to be myself and stop caring about what others think is because everyone in college is a lot more alike than we are different. We all pay tuition, we all have midterms, we all sleep through our 8am’s at least once or twice, we’re all stressed during midterms week, and we’re all still figuring things out. Because we’re a lot more alike than we may or may not realize, there is that unspoken rule of, “Give them a break”. College is rough—and we’re all doing it together.
To be completely honest, it is not easy to not care. Although hindsight is 20/20, I can’t say that I would have done anything much differently in high school. Nevertheless, I am happy that my transition into the adult world has been filled with me choosing to not care what others think, to be who I am, and to not apologize for it. I have begun to love myself a lot more than I did growing up, which is the most important lesson I have learned so far while in college. I am also glad that this transition opened my eyes to who my real friends are—I grew apart from some people I was really close with along the way, but I haven’t lost any sleep over it. I love who I am, and I’m not going to let anyone bring me down.