A dear friend of mine recently asked me what my intentions are for the upcoming summer. Being caught a little off guard and realizing I hadn’t thought much about the impending season at all, I quickly came up with this one: this summer, I will learn to stay. I will stay rooted and routined. I will stop romanticizing the idea of going anywhere other than home. I will stay present and fully enjoy all that my city offers in the summertime and I won’t miss out on quality time with the people here. I find that I’m always planning our next trip, either to visit someone or to cross something off my bucket list. While I can’t say that I’m going to stop doing that entirely—as I already have a weekend trip planned this month and two in July—I’m going to stop acting like this summer is the only time I have to do the 100 different things I want to do someday. Summertime is my favorite time in Rochester for dozens of reasons that I won’t list here, but this year I’m not going to miss it by packing our schedule to the brim. Hopefully.
Since my sweet friend asked me that question a few weeks ago, I’d mostly forgotten about it until today. Today I found myself self-deprecating, a habit that I’m sure most people struggle with but one that is typically triggered for me after I’ve been around a lot of people. After going to a friend’s wedding this weekend, I spent much of today replaying moments from the weekend and thinking of what I “should’ve” said or done or how I “should” feel about the experiences I had. By the time I got home today, I felt like shit. There’s no better way to say it.
After reflecting some more about what made me feel that way, I realized that the word “should” and all of its forms has been an incredibly harmful word for me for as long as I can remember. I associate it with nothing but shame. When someone tells me, or I tell myself, that I “should” or “shouldn’t” do something or feel some way, my heart sinks and I feel completely squashed because we use those words when someone does something wrong. I use those words most often when referring to my emotions, beating myself up for the way I’m feeling. I want to be easygoing and fun to be around and a great friend and selfless, so when I feel anything that could cause me to not be one of those things, I get even more upset with myself for it.
I’ve always struggled with feeling like I overshare or don’t act happy enough and then, after the conversation is over, I ruminate over what the other person could be thinking of me. She’s a bummer to be around. She seems down. I feel bad for her. I don’t know what to say to her. I’m sick of her complaining. Chances are, no one thought any of those things 99 percent of the time that I worry about it, and if they were thinking those things, they’re probably not a good friend for me anyways.
Last summer, I took the opposite approach. I was too afraid to express how anxious I was about the wedding. I didn’t want anyone to think I was making the wrong decision because it had nothing to do with how I felt about marrying Charlie and I didn’t want anyone to tell me not to do it. I wasn’t exactly sure what made me so anxious about the wedding and I didn’t know how to express it, so I chose not to. I wanted to be the “cool bride,” who didn’t care what happened as long as I got to marry the love of my life. Spoiler alert: I’m a control freak and a perfectionist, so naturally I had way too high of expectations for my wedding. I didn’t want anyone to know that so I tried to be the “easygoing” person I’ve always wanted to be, which just resulted in me bottling things up and taking them out on the people closest to me. I’ve spent the past year feeling a lot of regret for the way I acted over the few months leading up to the wedding because I know I hurt many of the people I love most. Since that day, I’ve judged myself harder than my worst critics ever have, and I’m so thankful that Charlie has been there to pull me out of it time after time. It serves as a constant reminder that I married the right person.
Today, I finally had enough. I’m sick of my self-deprecating thoughts. I’m sick of feeling like I “should” or “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. I’m sick of small talk and hiding my emotions in fear of not being pleasant to be around. Life is too short for small talk. This summer, I’m giving up all forms of the word “should” cold-turkey, and I’m going to stop apologizing for my emotions. I know that I’ve already made progress over the years by no longer literally saying “I’m sorry” for how I feel, but I have yet to conquer feeling guilt over my emotions. I’m going to stare my feelings right in the face and figure out why the heck I’m feeling that way.
Look out, world. No more sugar-coating from this girl.
Thanks for reading.