If college has taught me anything— besides how to get ready in five minutes even with an agonizing hangover— it’s that people scare the shit out of me.
And by “scared” I don’t mean to the same caliber of snakes, spiders, or the creepy clown at the snot-nosed preschooler’s birthday party. This breed of “scared” doesn’t evoke a blood-curdling scream or send me running for the hills, but rather, the opposite. The fear that I experience in college materializes as a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. It comes and it goes, and sometimes it causes me to stop dead in my tracks.
People scare the shit out of me.
I’ve grazed the surface of this subject many times, often opting to swiftly jerk my hand away from it like a hot stove. “Oh Katy, don’t talk about the subject of pleasing other people,” an internal voice warns. “It’s not empowering. It’s not sexy. It makes you look weak.”
Here’s the deal: I can wear the mask of “look at me! independent woman! comfortable in my own skin! doesn’t care what anyone thinks!”
I can place it triumphantly over my face, secure it with a ribbon behind my head and convince myself that I’m not even for a second concerned with others’ opinions of me. I can post photos and videos online, provoking strangers to believe that I am not afraid of anything. I can throw back a perfectly-groomed head of hair and laugh in public, wear thoughtfully-curated outfits and radiate an air of confidence with every graceful step.
But what happens when the mask falls? What happens when the facade crumbles?
What happens when I’m too exhausted to keep up the act?
As some say, when cracks form, that’s how the light gets in. For me, however, it instills a sensation similar to how I’d imagine it’d feel to be slammed by a truck traveling at 90 miles per hour.
People— and what they think— scares the shit out of me.
No matter how much I try, I do care. I choose my words wisely, rolling them around in my mouth like a breath mint before speaking. “Do I sound smart? Do I sound confident? Am I funny enough? Am I being too blunt?” By the time the words materialize after all of this silent contemplation, I’m not even sure if they belong to me anymore.
Do I even mean half the things I say? Or am I just saying them because they’re what is expected of me? Because they’re what people want to hear?
Some days I push back, convincing myself that everything I do is in fact done with personal intention. I close my eyes and imagine every word I say and action performed branded with the glossy black ink of a “PROPERTY OF KATY” stamp.
But then I find myself in a humid, crowded room, beer foam sloshing under my feet, bass ringing in my ears as I hear myself say, “ugh this party is awesome!” leaning towards a boy who— in his current state of intoxication— probably couldn’t distinguish me from a sweet potato… Was the party “awesome”? Eh, not really. You know what’s awesome? Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower overlooking all of Paris. Watching your Mom kick cancer’s ass. Getting an A on a test you spent all night studying for. All things that I’ve experienced, yet I choose to articulate “ugh, this party is awesome.” Hah.
It’s like the wrong guy leaning in, about to kiss you. You could either take it head-on or pull a Rihanna at the 2016 VMA’s and turn away. Poor Drake.
There’s one voice in your head exclaiming, “Mayday! Mayday! This isn’t right! SOS!” while another is saying “Eh, relax, it’ll be over in like 15 seconds and then you can tell all your friends about it tomorrow if he’s cute.” I imagine the first voice is the-overprotective-Mother-type in a turtleneck and pearls while the other is wearing sunglasses, smoking a cigarette in a trench coat.
I often find myself living my life in autopilot strictly because I’m scared of upsetting the balance. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to give anyone reason to talk about me.
I've ruined myself for a lot of people who aren't even worth it.
But then there’s Taylor Swift.
Her recent single “Look What You Made Me Do” upset the balance. It provoked people to accuse the songwriter of “turning cold,” “acting petty,” and “giving women a bad name.” The years of writing songs about love stories, slammin’ screen doors and wild dreams slipped quietly out the door. All that remains is a diamond-clad young woman, addressing her past demons and wielding a fiery sword at those who have wronged her.
People say that Taylor’s changed. Sure, she might’ve. (“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ‘Cause she’s dead.") But then again, perhaps Taylor’s “new fire” has been there the whole time, simmering somewhere deep down, but she was too busy pleasing everyone to rip off the mask.
You might not agree with her methods, but newsflash: it shouldn’t concern you anyway. We have more critical things to be debating about than Taylor Swift’s bathtub full of diamonds, alright? Let her be.
We can’t let the judgment of others extinguish our flame.
Maybe it’s about time that we start saying what we mean.
Maybe it’s about time we start doing what we want to do.
Maybe it’s about time we take that darn mask off.
Who were you before you they broke you?
Before the thought of disappointing them forced your hand?
Be. that. person.