Like most kids, I spent a lot of my childhood playing pretend. I would gather random items from around the house to help me become whatever character my mind dreamed up. This meant I got to be whatever I wanted to be. An imagination allowed me to because a doctor without a degree. I was a bus driver. I’d take my dad’s magnifying glass and just like that I was an explorer. I was a mother who had all of her dolls in tow while she ran her errands. I was a grocery clerk. I was a singer who took giant bows as the crowd made up of stuffed animals roared in approval.
I was exactly who I wanted to be in that moment.
As much as I loved playing pretend by myself it was always better when I got to play with a friend. There was a particular boy that I played with regularly and our favorite game to play was “good guys and bad guys”. We would run around the house laughing as one of us chased the other with our nerf guns in hand. I usually was the good guy and my little friend was usually the bad guy.
All was well until one day I decided that I wanted to try being the bad guy. I mentioned it as casually as a 5 year old could: “I want to be the bad guy this time!” My friend’s face immediately changed. “But…you are always the good guy.” I nodded “I know, but I want to be a bad guy for once.” He wasn’t having it. His argument was that since I’m always the good guy I should always be the good guy. He said he wouldn’t play with me unless we played the way we normally did.
Well I wasn’t having it either.
I shrugged and said “Ok, than I’m not playing.” I stormed off in a huff and we refused to speak to each other for a whole 15 minutes. Our mothers diffused the situation by putting on a cartoon and giving us fruit snacks. That’s all it took. Just like that we were friends again. We decided that maybe it was best to play something else. You know something less controversial. So we decided to play “Ninja Turtles.” This was the change we needed. Everything was going great until a few weeks later I decided that I wanted to have a turn pretending to be Raphael.
There is a point to me bringing all this up. And it has nothing to do with the bitterness of not getting to play Raphael when I wanted to. (Ok, maybe it does a little.) I have been thinking a lot lately about feeling trapped in roles. I may be a grown woman, but I’d be a liar if I said that I didn’t have days where I felt just like that little girl who “wasn’t allowed” to do something different.
Let me explain:
Sometimes I feel as though people fall in love with only a part of me. Some people love the Megan who jokes around a lot. They love the girl who post silly memes and funny statuses. They love the way I laugh cry while I struggle to tell a story that I found hilarious. They like how I can find humor even in the most unlikely moments. (The nurses loved how I cracked jokes during the labors of both of my children.)
I’m thankful for the ones who value my humor and silly take on the world. But sometimes I got nothing to joke about. Sometimes I’m less concerned about keeping the room laughing and I’m more concerned about weightier issues. Sometimes I open up about the serious things on my heart and I’m met with a blank stare. I’m literally asked “Where did my happy Megan go?”
Some people love how I can talk so rawly about vulnerable issues. They love that I sometimes say the things others want to say, but can’t find the words for. They like how I walk around with my heart on display in hopes that others can find part of their story in my own. They love that I talk openly about my faith and hope in God. But sometimes I don’t have a life lesson or encouragement to offer that day. Sometimes I just feel like sharing a video that made me laugh.That’s when I receive a notification in my messages and its someone telling me they sure wish I would go back to being inspiring Megan.
Some people no longer want to play with me when I won’t stay true to the role they are most comfortable with me being. Some people stay close when I make them laugh, but back away when I talk about racial injustice. They lose my number when I can’t make it to a few events or volunteer for something they were hoping I’d be apart of. They tell me they love me as long as I say “yes”, but when I finally offer a “no” they treat me like a stranger.
I don’t say any of this for sympathy. I say this because I believe there are many who feel trapped as well. There are those who felt abandoned the minute they said they couldn’t say late that day for work. There are those who felt forgotten about when they missed a few Sundays at church. There are those who are live with the deep fear that if I’m not willing to stay who they want me to be will they still want to play with me? Will they still be my friend? Will they still like me?
I’m here to remind you today that you are a whole person. There are many beautiful sides of who you are. It’s important you don’t live as though you are sorry for the parts of you that others don’t understand or prefer. There will always be the ones who want to keep you in role that you know you are more than.
I encourage you to be fully you anyways.
This is the only way to come across your true tribe and people. Boldly be you and allow the ones who are uncomfortable with it to back away. Let them go. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad people they just aren’t YOUR people. Your people will be the ones who love the many sides of you. They will be the ones who won’t split the second your quiet self decides to speak up. You won’t lose their respect the day you aren’t able to volunteer.
So don’t be alarmed by the ones who say they don’t recognize you the second you step into a different part of who you are. You didn’t do anything wrong.
They just forgot you are a whole person.