Choose Yourself

Hilary - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Entered on February 7, 2008

I believe in fitting rooms. You can never truly know how something is going to look until you try it on. Sometimes that gorgeous sun dress in the window just isn’t tight in the right places. Sometimes that sophisticated color just washes you out. But sometimes, you pull some totally-just-trying-it-on-for-kicks thing over your head, and it works, big time. I should know. I’ve tried on a lot of things.

I’ve tried fitting in and I’ve tried stepping out. I am a concert junkie, a literary buff, and a science geek. I have been the girl that stays at home all weekend, the host of the crazy party, and the random girl at someone else’s crazy party. People have known me exclusively as a choir girl, a soccer aficionado, and a Francophile. I’ve spent days as a philanthropist, a shop-a-holic, and a sorority girl. I can be extremely politically active, entirely commercially driven, family oriented, egocentric, manipulative, excessive, totally inconsiderate, and completely selfless. You could find me dressed to the tee, hastily thrown together, or in an ensemble that is clearly both purposeful and socially unacceptable. I am naïve, jaded, hopelessly romantic, and a flagrant disbeliever in the existence of true love. And I chose it all.

Throughout my relatively short life, I have knowingly chosen to change aspects of my personality several times. I was a painfully shy as a child, dreading nearly every social interaction. I used to pray that the pastor at my grandparents’ church would forget to announce the portion of the service when everyone greets their neighbor. Inevitably, the church members would want to shake my hand, ask me if I was having fun with my grandparents, and compliment me on my pink gingham dress. At five years old, I could imagine no greater torture. I can distinctly recall multiple instances when I cried until my mother called the parents of a friend, whose house I had promised to visit, to tell them I had changed my mind and wasn’t coming.

When I finally left elementary school and was thrown into a new world with new kids, it became apparent that super-shy was not the best way to make new friends. So, I decided to be outgoing. And I made friends. I liked how outgoing looked on me. Now, it’s one of the first words people use to describe me, not because it came naturally to me, but because I made it a part of who I am.

People always say, “Be yourself. Don’t lose yourself. Stay true to yourself,” as if there is some inherent “me” that is constant and unchanging. Could I somehow betray my true identity if I don’t stick with a single way of being? We live in a society where I am supposed to choose the way I dress, my career, my friends, my spouse, my government representatives, even the art on my body, but my personality, my most definitive quality, isn’t up to me? I say, “Choose yourself.” I want to venture out into the world and see what’s out there. And if I see something that sparks my curiosity, I’ll try it on for size, regardless of whether or not it fits my preconceived notion of self. It might turn out to be an ill-fitting, itchy sweater like the one I see in the mirror when I live for my own ambition with no regard for others. But maybe it will be more like the days when I decide to meet a new person everywhere I go, and I feel as if I’m rocking a fashionably fierce outfit, straight off the catwalk. I’ll never know unless I try. And in the end, how can I truly know who I want to be, if I don’t try a few things on first?