Be true to yourself
My nana grew up with 13 brothers and sisters, so I had a bushel of great aunts and uncles. Weíre not supposed to have a favorite, but I loved Aunt Susanna the most. She was funny, personable and inclusive.
Anybody that grew up with a big extended family knows someone always gets left out. For reasons I didnít understand back then, I was the black sheep. One of my aunts had a sleepover with all her great nieces except me, and she planned it while I was in the room. Thatís got to be up there on my list of most mortifying moments.
When Iíd start to feel unwanted, I found Aunt Susanna. Sheíd launch into a lengthy story and I wouldnít have to talk for a while. I could just listen and ask questions. I have always loved observing the way people talk, from the idioms they use to their body language. Aunt Susanna talked with her hands and punctuated each sentence with a hearty laugh. She made you feel comfortable.
Over the years, Iíve lost touch with my extended family. I moved away for college and then for work. Living six hours away from my hometown means thereís no popping by Nanaís house when one of her sisters are visiting. Gideon and I visit each year for Christmas, but our visit rarely lines up with the yearly family reunion.
As many of you know from my recent columns, I am a progressive person. I believe in equality and proudly call myself a feminist. If youíre a regular reader, you already knew that. I donít pretend to be something Iím not, even if that makes my column particularly unpopular. I never have.
In a way, Iíve always been like this. Sometimes I wonder if thatís why I wasnít the most popular great niece. All my aunts and uncles are conservative Republicans. My mom is a conservative Republican. My nana is a conservative Republican. I donít have any family member whose views even slightly align with mine, and I never have.
Their political views have never changed how I feel for them, but sometimes I think theyíd love me more if I parroted their beliefs. Fellow lifelong people pleasers know how tempting it is to change who you are for others. Sometimes I think I could do that. I could adopt new beliefs and then I wouldnít have uncomfortable conversations anymore. But that wouldnít be who I am. It would be a mask Iíd wear to hide my true face.
After the election last November, I posted on Facebook about the historic nature of Vice President Kamala Harrisí appointment. Electing our first woman vice president is a big deal no matter who you voted for. Aunt Susanna commented telling me how wrong I was to say that. She said my attitude is whatís wrong with America. She was so harsh ó a far cry from the comforting voice at all my family parties.
And in that moment, I was faced with the same internal conflict Iíve always felt. Should I concede to what she said? Would that make her love me more? Would that smooth everything over?
You know the answer is no. Changing who you are will never make someone love you. Theyíll love a person who isnít you, and thatís not really love. I wrestled for weeks over sharing my views publicly, blaming myself for feeling like the odd one out.
Now, Iím wondering whatís so wrong with being the odd one out. Wouldnít you say itís always better to be true to yourself? Iíve made a lot of mistakes, but being honest is not one of them. To those of you who are struggling with your very own Aunt Susanna, I hope you know thereís nothing wrong with expressing yourself so long as youíre respectful toward others.
Donít be afraid to be yourself. After all, who else are you going to be?