I am retiring “laid back” from my list of “ways I want to be”. “At peace” is a way I want to be. But “laid back” is way too close to “chill” which is just another bullshit way of saying “lower your standards”. I’m too sober and alive for that shit.
This desirable state of chill got stuck in my brain at a young age. I like to blame Teen magazine, for reminding me that boys like girls who are laid back and wear “natural” makeup, aka look conventionally beautiful and don’t ask for much. I solidified that by watching Reality Bites a million times, and brainwashing myself into believing that the best kind of guy was a loser like Ethan Hawke’s character, and the best kind of girl to be was a chill waif who was cool with whatever.
I cannot even begin to explain the trouble this mindset got me into. I can blame culture, but my own teenage insecurity is the thing I can’t put on Winona Ryder and her stringy bangs. I wanted to be liked, and the path I took towards that was being as easily consumable as possible. Which I’m not; none of us our, if we’re being our true self, right? I fought myself for years, trying to push myself into this state of chill. This place where I was not difficult. If you ever wonder why people start drinking so much, one reason may be that they don’t want to care so much. Living with intense feelings is hard.
Today, I am not chill. I get emotional about things I care about. I have deep pangs of insecurity, which I tell my partner about unapologetically. I’m trying to stop forcing my body into a certain shape. I’ve done this before, since I quit drinking, and I always chicken out, and go back to diets. That Winona waif thing got stuck really deep in my mind. Today I ordered new jeans, to fit my growing hips. They are not chill. They are trying to grow into the space they want to inhabit. I’m going to do my best to let them.
The scariest thing about getting sober was being alone with myself. The first few months were numb, and boring. The next few months were euphoric, but I didn’t want to be around people. Things went up and down like this for the first year and a half. In the last few months, I feel like I’ve cautiously stepped out of my cave, and have started connecting with friends again. I still have nightmares about drinking, and spinning thoughts of guilt while falling asleep; I still hear the past. But I feel clean. And I feel safe. But not laid back. I care too much, love too hard, and shine too bright to chill.