When I went away to college, I vowed to be a different person than I was in high school. With excitement – and no small amount of nervousness – I realized that no one there would know me (except my roommate – but – hey – let’s not get caught up in technicalities) and that presented me with the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be, no questions asked, no weird looks, no judgments.
Once that realization hit me, then it was deciding who, exactly, it was that I wanted to be. In high school, I was this chameleon – someone who was friends with everyone, but confidants with no one. I was the honor student. I was the jock. Teacher’s pet. Best buddy. But I was forever scared of being alone. By far the absolute worst part of high school? Lunch. I never really had anyone to sit with because I was so scared and insecure to either ask if I could join a group or assume that I would be welcomed.
Which, was, like, a bummer, man. Like, gag me with a spoon. (Yes, I’m a product of the Valley Girl era.)
This is the person I knew I didn’t want to be. I never wanted to again be scared of approaching people or lack the confidence to strike up a conversation. And so I followed the oft-thrown about advice that if you don’t have confidence, just act like you do an eventually the inside perception can match the outside behavior.
That first day, I popped into rooms of complete strangers and introduced myself. I organized an outing to the dance being held for freshman orientation. I even – once at the dance – danced with someone and gave out my phone number. I was popular, liked, looked up to; my room became “the party room” on the hall, where everyone would congregate until all hours of the night. I finally felt like had things the way I wanted.
Now, the fairly boring story of how I spent my college years is not the point here. Mostly, this story of Changing Who I Am came to mind for two reasons: first, today I had lunch with my then-freshman year roommate. Second, the thought of being able to go somewhere where no one knows my name (it’s like the opposite of Cheers, where Everybody Knows Your Name) intrigues me.
While I haven’t really found anything NOT difficult about this whole process, perhaps the biggest obstacle to me has been that at 39 years old, my life is already well established. People know me. And even have expectations about my behavior. And what they expect is that I’m a straight girl who just hasn’t found the right guy.
I’ve got such a straight girl life. My friends are straight and (mostly) married and (mostly) with kids already. My three lesbian friends (one of whom lives a couple hundred miles away, one whom I only communicate with over text messages and the third which exists only at the gym and conversations have to fit into a frustrating 1-2 minute vignettes in between sets) are supportive, but not a regular part of my life. The community to which I belong doesn’t reflect the person that I now am.
And so I wonder: what would it be like to just pick up and move? Go somewhere, make a fresh start. Be the lesbian I am without having to explain to people, “YES, I like girls. No, this isn’t a fad. No, this isn’t just a mid-life crisis or something to try until I find the right guy.” Just like in college where I morphed into this far-more social person than I had ever been, I could just be the gay girl.
It’s an interesting thought.