The Journey to Being My True Self [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]

When I was in high school (and even younger at that), cliques ruled my life. Every girl had to fit in to some sort of “group.” These groups usually had names like The Electric Eight or The Fantastic Five. Really cool, I know, but that was life. I was kind of in one of these, but I was more of a floater. I had a lot of friends in high school and tried to hang out with different people as much as I could, but still, I inevitably fell into the clique trap. Now, I am not thinking about this because I love my high school friends. They are the still the most near and dear people to me and don’t plan on giving up their friendships anytime soon. They’re my soulmates. “Clique” is just an ugly word for “groups of friends.”

If we all know what cliques are, we all know what comes along with them. You start to dress the same, talk the same, listen to the same music, take on the same mannerisms, etc. You can basically become clones of one another and be afraid of any outside earthlings that seem to want to invade your planet. I was definitely like this. Not only did I grow up in a town where everyone was basically the same, but I went to college where everyone was pretty much the same, and then came back to my hometown where every was—you guessed it—still the same.

I’ve never considered myself a closed-minded person. I am pretty liberal in my stances on social issues, and I try to be open to everything and everyone, but lately, I’ve realized something: there are so many different walks of life out there. I recently got back from an amazing trip to Washington D.C. which opened my eyes up even wider to how many wonderfully different people there are in this world.

I’m definitely no world traveler by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel that this summer has really expanded my views on lot of things. Whether I’m down south in Nashville or hanging around the nation’s capital, I’ve realized that people are everywhere and spoiler alert: people are wonderful. I am not saying that every person is wonderful (because let’s face it, some people just suck), but every place in this big world we’ve living in has people that are fun, sweet, interesting, and so wonderfully different and unique! I met people this past weekend from Texas and Pennsylvania and Florida and Alabama and all over the place! I even met a guy who is moving to Yemen for a year. Yeah, I wasn’t sure where the hell Yemen was either…

I’ll also mention how refreshing it is to tell someone where I’m from and them have no idea where Naperville, Illinois is, as opposed to telling people in Chicago and receiving moans and groans over the unfortunate stigma that my hometown has for being a bit “snooty.”

I get to come as I am to these people with no preconceived notions and no underlying feelings that I may be whatever they think I am because of where I’m from. Growing up in “cliques” my whole life, I feel like I’ve always been contorting and molding into something that I thought I was supposed to be because of who I was friends with and where I grew up. I had a looming fear that if I stepped outside the box and expressed my love for classic literature or Myth Busters, I would be banished to a lesser place forever with no friends. This is highly irrational, but at 16, it all made perfect sense in my cluttered head.

I have realized that the people who accept you and love you for the true version of yourself are the people worth keeping around. Anyone (usually a female) who looks at me cock-eyed because I admit that I love the sport of hockey is probably not worth trying to impress. Back in high school, I may have backtracked and tried to cover up that ice hockey holds a special place in my heart (because ew, hockey…that’s a boys sport), but now, I realize there is no point to that. I’ve realized that as we grow up, we must become more accepting and open to each other. We have to step outside of the box that we grew up in and realize that we’re all different, and it’s wonderful that we’re all different. We can teach each other and learn from each other. We can gain new perspectives and help each other figure out who we are and what we want in this crazy time known as “our twenties.”

It’s refreshing to be who I am with no apologies. Granted, as a twenty-something, I am still trying to figure out who I am exactly, but I’m happy to say that I’m getting there.

Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks about Ryan Gosling and hummus a lot here!

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