I have been looking for a new beginning since middle school. I’m sure we all have. The pubescent monster that I became, however, truly proved the unconditionality of my parents’ love, and, I’m sure, tested their resolve.
Awkward, whiny, and braces-clad — a horrific middle school right of passage — the bubbly young Simi soon evolved into a moody, jaded Tarantino creation who began to take pride in her RBF. It became a shield from the outside world, screaming “leave me alone” before anyone was given the opportunity to reject me. In sixth grade, I reached my full emo potential. I had been going to school with the same people for eight years and was in store for another six. I was sure that the way they saw me then was the way that they would see me forever, and, as a stickler for consistency, I satisfied my self-fulfilling prophecy.
I toned down my Daria-esque personality by high school. But I certainly wasn’t friendly. It was during these years that I had honorarily earned a doctorate in excessive sarcasm. Sarcasm that was often lost on my peers.
On June 7, 2019, I graduated high school as a perceived mean girl. On that day, I vowed to forge a new path, one uncorrupted by my middle school self.
Yale has been my first opportunity to escape a reputation that had preceded me in Delaware, a state so small that I felt like I knew everyone. In my first few weeks, I have changed. And the way people regard me has changed too.
I smile much more to combat my RBF (finally making use of the braces’ finished product). I feel much more at ease when striking up conversations with my peers. And the other day, when a girl walked in on me in the bathroom after I failed to lock the stall, the first thing out of my mouth was “Hi, I’m Simi. What’s your name?”
The last anecdote shows that there exists a learning curve that I am still trying to navigate, but I did get a new Instagram follower. No regrets.
It’s too early to say where my new attitude will lead me, but wherever that is, I am much happier with who I am becoming. I always tried to convince myself that I didn’t care what other people thought of me. And I don’t. But it was my immaturity, back in high school, that allowed me to perpetuate my overwhelmingly negative perception.
The question of authenticity does plague me. How does one know when they cross the line between bettering themselves and being a new person entirely? How much of my new demeanor is rooted in the person that I have always been? The thing about my personality that I have always admired is that I am honest with both my words and my emotions. Sometimes to a fault. And now, I catch myself holding my tongue for the sake of preserving my friendly disposition. But with my self expression hampered, how well is anyone really going to get to know me?
I’m sometimes terrified that I don’t know how to grow as a person because I used to avoid all attempts at growth. I claimed that I already knew exactly who I was and who I wanted to be. This begs the question: Did I not want to change, or did I want to preserve my identifiability to my peers? Did I feel like I needed my past persona to maintain any sort of profile?
The main adventure in my reinvention has been the intense introspection that continually grabs a hold of me. The thought that I’m merely practicing rather than communicating clouds all my interactions. If I were to exist in a void, free from other people and their opinions, who would I be? The same person that I’ve been projecting for years? Or the new person that I am finally allowing to surface?
If only such a void existed.
Simi Olurin | firstname.lastname@example.org