Who Are We When We Can Be Anyone?
It feels as though the older we get the less opportunities we are given to be “new” again. To meet people for the first time or to make a first impression.
Even when we meet new people through friends or colleagues they usually already know a little about us and have painted a vague picture of the kind of person we are, leaving very little wriggle room. Consequently, it becomes harder for us to change and evolve because we get accustomed to being a certain version of ourselves, and if we do anything that deviates from that it usually results in us being judged.
One of the few chances we do get to be “new” again is when we travel. When I went to Africa by myself last year and met my group of fellow travellers I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom to be whoever I wanted, and 10 times out of 10 I chose to be me. Not the me that I was when I was with certain crowds, not the weekend me or the work me, just capital M capital E. And when my younger sister recently returned from two months travelling around Europe she had the same sentiment.
Here are her words.
I wouldn’t say that I am a particularly insecure person.
Depending on who is reading this, that will either sound very obvious or very arrogant but unfortunately I seem to be a part of the minority when I say that I am pretty happy with who I am.
I think as the youngest child I learnt pretty quickly that I was never going to live up to what my two older sisters were (my big sister is the founder of this website for god’s sake *eye roll*) so I decided to accept myself for who I was, even if that person gets unnecessarily sweaty in non-exercise-related activities and is too blunt for her own good.
I also like to think that I am pretty self-aware, but I never considered that perhaps I am too self-aware until I embarked on an overseas trip, travelling by myself for the first time earlier this year. On the 1st of January I flew to Spain – alone – where I would spend the next two months completely re-evaluating the person I thought I was.
I began my travels with a two week Contiki around Spain with 40 other young people under the age of 35. The day I arrived, after flying for 25 hours, I sat on my bed and hysterically cried for an hour. I vividly remember calling Maddy and telling her this was the stupidest idea I had ever had and why had I decided to go to Spain by myself for two months?! I was petrified that I wouldn’t make any friends. How do you even make friends at 21? The majority of my friends today are people I met at the very innocent age of 5 or 13 when one of my soon-to-be best friends asked me by the lockers if I had gotten my period yet. So, the thought of having to make new friends in a foreign country was daunting to say the least.
Spoiler Alert: it was the opposite.
Being in Spain, alone, was indubitably the most freeing experience of my life. I quickly realised I could be anyone I wanted to be. People found me inherently interesting as I was “that Kiwi girl” and my accent was strange enough to make even my most mediocre jokes an absolute hit. As I met new people I found I was able to be a raging party animal one day and a complete grandma the next without anyone knowing if that was out of character for me or not. I tore apart the box I had put myself in back home and allowed myself to be completely authentic for the first time in my life. It was awesome.
It wasn’t until I got back to New Zealand and started easing myself back into my usual social scene that I realised I had become so hyper-aware of who I was in relation to my peers that I had lost the freedom to evolve year-to-year or even day-to-day.
So this is me giving myself permission to be any version of myself at any time, no matter who might be judging. I dare you to give yourself the same freedom; you don’t have to be the same person you were last year, or even five minutes ago! I just finished eating a salad for lunch and ordered a soy flat white this morning, but tonight I want to be the kind of the girl who orders pork buns and noodles from UberEats.
Because hey it’s Thursday and that’s the kinda life I wanna live.