Often times in life, I’ve felt like a late bloomer.
This is mainly in terms of social interaction with my peers, but also in finding myself.
I always felt like I was missing out on all of the main social interactions that my peers would have. I never really partied. I never really felt like I had a best friend. I just didn’t feel connected or valued by people my age. I mainly got along with people who were much younger than I, or much older.
I’ve always felt like an old soul. In part, it is from the experiences I’ve had, and also from what I value out of life. I never really cared about the same things as my peers. Sure, I will admit that we had some things in common, like fitting in, and getting good grades. But how I saw the world, and how I defined those things were different. For me, the basic level of not being bullied and having a place to sit at lunchtime equaled “fitting in”. Getting good grades was getting the grades that were expected of me, and consistent with other grades I would get. I value consistency. I value work ethic. I would go home and do chores everyday, because it was the right thing for me to do. I felt naturally responsible for younger people and took on responsibility like I was always made to. It just was hard to translate these values to my peers.
Lately, I realize my standard has always been skewed. My perspective too narrow. A tunnel vision created by my ambition. I was comparing two incomparable experiences.
The truth is that the perspective I had was what I was taught, and that worked for some people, maybe even most people, but not for me. Why is that? Well, if you are asking that question, you probably are under the assumption that everyone can go through a cookie cutter process. I didn’t connect with my peers until college. And by connect, I mean, have mutual feelings of social reward. That’s when I started questioning my identity and really embracing the journey of self-discovery.
Before the start of this journey, I always felt like an invisible cog in the machine of society. Invisible to others and invisible to myself. Feeling like I am doing something and having some sort of impact on the world around me, but not feeling seen nor heard. I took this as a mark of my value, and how little I mattered. This would be reinforced by what I would hear from people when I talked about my suicidal thoughts, I was always supposed to live for other people or to be able to “do” something, it was never for myself.
College has a way of breaking you out of the cookie cutter mold that you grew up in. It gives you choices, it’s like a “choose your own adventure”. You can join clubs, intramural sports, choose your major, and pick the classes and schedule. The sudden autonomy you gain in living by yourself (or out of your family’s home) and having more control in how you spend your daily life is fertile ground for self-discovery.
It took college to teach me how I did matter and that I could be seen and heard. Experiencing that I finally started questioning HOW I was being seen, as well as WHAT other people were hearing from me and if those coincided with what I wanted to be perceived as.
I’m still on that journey. Today was the very first day of wearing a binder, and for choosing to go only by They/Them pronouns in the safe space of group therapy. For those of you who don’t know what a binder is (outside of the three-ring binders you use for school), it’s a garment that is meant to create a flatter chest. It pushes everything inward to consolidate the space that your chest normally takes up. This can come with certain health problems especially in regards to wearing it for extended periods of time, but it changes the way your body is viewed.
Today, I feel more like me than I ever have. I never knew how much I wanted a flatter chest until I ordered this binder. The amount of excitement I had for it to arrive surprised me. Trying it on caused a nearly endless loop of trying on so many of my tops that I was late for individual therapy today. I was just so torn on what to wear for my first day, and it was exciting to see how much differently the tops fit me. It gave me the courage to introduce my pronouns as solely they/them. The group leader noticed this decision and asked me about it after group, allowing me to celebrate the victory that is another step in discovering myself.
I haven’t felt this unbelievably happy in a while. I’ve been doing really well in my workouts. I’ve been receiving verbal accolades from my catering job. And I’m feeling like me. I could cry tears of joy right now if I weren’t in a Starbucks writing this right now (well, technically I still could, but social norms still have a hold on me).
Despite the fact that I’m nearly a quarter of a century years old, I’m really coming into my own and blooming. And, I no longer think I’m late. I’m pretty sure that I am right on time.