I Used to Be

So, it’s time again for a wild assortment of half-formed thoughts. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change, growth, and the things that we, as people, hold onto or let go of in our quest to become the idyllic self that we wish to be. Whether it’s changing your attitude, learning new perspectives, or finding new approaches to everyday life, we always seem to feel like we’re on the cusp of something great, but often forget to look back on the things we’ve already accomplished on our journey.

I used to be someone who got deeply upset when new slang words were added to the dictionary. It boggled my mind that these “made up” words could be inscribed into what was, in many ways, like a holy text to me. I’ve let this go in several ways; the first and easiest was to remind myself that a dictionary isn’t supposed to be a guide book, but a chronicle. On a long enough timeline, every word we know was “made up” at some point. Dictionaries exist to keep record of language and its use, not to dictate it to us. Changing this part of myself has allowed me to be happier, as silly as it seems, because there’s one less perceived slight pulling at me.

I used to be someone who couldn’t stand it when people didn’t like the things I did, or when they cared deeply about things that just seemed stupid to me. It made me angry to think that people could be so obsessed with what seemed like trivial things, when there were “better” alternatives. This was one of the easiest to learn to let go of as my circle of friends widened and I began to have a broader, more varied group of opinions to pull from. The biggest portion of this, though, wasn’t about anyone else; it was about allowing myself to accept that other people find their happiness in different places. It’s pretty simple, looking back.

I used to be someone who didn’t believe in much, and found those who did to be baffling and, at times, infuriating. When you’re struggling yourself, and you see people coping by clinging to things that bring you no comfort, it’s easy to end up feeling an animosity; it’s easy to want to sever those ties that they have, and help them “open their eyes” to the reality. This is one I still struggle with, from time to time, but that I’ve largely been able to let go. It ties in to the same concept as allowing others to do what makes them happy. Something that doesn’t help me can certainly help others, and learning to allow those around me to bear their burdens in their own way has gone a long way in allowing me to more easily carry my own, and help to share the load when any of us are struggling.

I used to be someone who thought their best days were behind. I thought that I’d had my chance at something good, and missed it, and that was it. Now, I’ve got a great, loving family and I’ve never been happier. Yes, we still struggle. Finances, raising kids, learning to take on the world together; these aren’t simple tasks. It’s not supposed to be easy, but I’ve stopped hoping for things to go right and learned to appreciate that, even at the lowest points of this, I’ve got the people by my side who matter the most to me, and there’s no reason we won’t rise again each time we feel ourselves fall. Maybe the best days are behind me, but I don’t really think so, and even if they are, the ones ahead are still good enough that I can hardly wait to get there.

I used to be someone who laughed at jokes rooted in racism, sexism, and other not-so-funny subject matter. It was a shock-value thing, I’d tell myself, and the humor came from how blatantly obvious the untruth behind it was. Now, though, I’m much more aware of the impact these sorts of things have on us all; not just the way they can hurt those that are the “butt” of the jokes, but the way they warp our own perspective. Telling a joke that relies on racism to be funny may seem harmless when you’re sure of yourself and your position, but it’s still an unnecessary poison. That’s not to say that I think these aren’t things that can still have a place in comedy, but I do feel that it’s important to be aware of it in a way that I previously wasn’t, and “for laughs” is a piss-poor justification for putting certain concepts to speech.

I used to be someone who felt able to express femininity because I was “secure in my own masculinity”. This is, perhaps, the most drastic lie I’ve ever told myself, but it took a good thirty years of telling it to find the falsehood. Looking back on this one, I was a hot mess of internalized misogyny and self-repression, and it took a ton of learning, reading, listening, and thinking to get to where I am now. I won’t say I’ve resolved this one, because there’s still a lot of mental struggle on a daily basis on this one; that said, I’ve at least become aware of and more comfortable with myself and my womanhood. Suffice it to say, the learning process continues and I don’t think it ever really stops.

I used to be someone who probably wasn’t a very good person, really. I’ve always considered myself to be decent, but on the path to where I am, I’ve learned more than I even knew there was to learn about. Maybe I’m still not a very good person, but the least we can do is to try, to learn, and to focus on the things within ourselves that we can change. I’ll never be perfect, but I can certainly strive to be better than I am. I’ve already made it this far, and I’m proud of the progress. The road that lies ahead will be all that much easier to walk when I can remind myself how far I’ve come since I began.

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