the fight, at twenty-five.

“Could you tell me honestly – am I difficult? Am I ‘work’?”

Growing up, ‘difficult‘ was a word I loathed because friends would fracture my heart (and then-fragile self-esteem) with that adjective as their excuse, justification – whatever. I lost count of the number of times “You’re so difficult” was flung my way. I’m not without fault but as a result, this also meant I grew up obsessed, desperate almost, to define myself in my own terms. While I do believe I’m inherently self-critical (and generally critical; I’m not funny), I think this trait worsened – or strengthened, depending how one looks at it – because I’m extremely conscious of the process of becoming. There were lost years – succumbing to peer pressure and “I know what’s best for you” noise – and likewise, there were self-affirming years.

Now at twenty-five and in an ocean of still-new faces, I find it ironic that nowadays it feels like I’m fighting – defending – to keep those exact adjectives that used to cripple me: difficult; critical; intense. Now I fight to keep them because while I’m not without fault – I’m aware especially lately that I tend to exhaust people, emotionally and mentally, with my choice of conversation topics – I just… I don’t know how to be ‘less‘. I’m learning to pick my battles – “tone it down” – but to be ‘less‘ is like trying to erase myself in the same manner I spent the bulk of my girlhood years attempting (and failing) to do.

“The friends I keep in adulthood – now, until now,” I admitted to a (new) close friend here recently, “I think of them as having survived me. I value them for accepting me as a whole person – ‘difficult’ included.” And realizing this, I’m also secretly kind of proud of myself; I think my fundamental transformation is officially complete? Because at twenty-five, my fight is no longer about quietening external voices but amplifying what I recognize and accept as my authentic self.

“I don’t think I’m the right person for you to be asking this because I actually enjoy critical conversations – but if I were to answer your question: I wouldn’t have gone for dinner with you – when I honestly have tons of things that legitimately need to get done – if you’re ‘work’.”

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