I've had people I knew and was acquainted with in school tell me I grew fatter or prettier or less talkative or more guarded and say that I'm not the girl they once knew as if that is a crime punishable by death, as if I should be stoned because of changing.
Last time someone threw this advice on my face, my brain literally went on an excursion. I was baffled by how deep the advice went and how many questions surfaced because of it. But ultimately, it made me ask myself: "who is the real me anyway?".
Is the real me the girl who likes dawns and dusks and spends most of her free time reading? Is the real me the girl who loves cooking and cleaning but hates doing the laundy? Is the real me the girl who shies away from strangers and giggles a lot when with friends? Is the real me the one who doesn't mind wearing holey and threadbare clothes indoors? Is the real me the self-critical virago or the all-accepting friend?
Is the real me the one I show to virtual strangers - calm, aloof, detached and chronically unimpressed? Or is the real me the one I show to my family, my boyfriend and my friends - a constant nag, cares too little too much, sensitive, relaxed and opinionated?
The thing is, to "be yourself" is an advice one can never accurately follow. Even if you attempt to, you'll easily find yourself lost in translation. That's because we have different facets, adapting personalities, different reactions to different things that make up our multi-dimensional character. We're not supposed to be one-note like Bella Swan, for instance, who can only pull off a perpetually bored face and care only about Edward and Jacob in 4 books.
We're supposed to grow and assimilate things. We're supposed to have phases and outgrow them. We're supposed to be occasionally weird and have our moments when we go astray from the staid and the normal. That's what life and living is - a long moment of discovery.
You can't gauge a person's entirety and who he/she is by what he/she has shown you in a fleeting party introduction. You can't say a girl is not being herself when she is trying to look like Alexa Chung or Lady Gaga on a whim.
There's always that moment when you surprise yourself, unearth something new, and realize that this is where you belong. That the world you thought you fit right in is a world you can no longer relate to. That the people who you used to rub shoulders with no longer has something in common with you.
That's not a bad thing. You shouldn't feel bad because you have become different. You shouldn't let others make you feel bad because you're no longer that simpering girl they can intimidate.
You're still yourself, adapting to the constant change, testing the waters, finding the things that excite you - no matter what age you are. So don't berate yourself when people tell you "you're not being yourself". They just don't know what "being yourself" really means. And now that you do, you should revel in it. Let it happen. Absorb it in the marrows of your bones, the molecules of your DNA and wear it like a badge of pride because there's nothing more tragic than letting years go by without letting vital things like change and growth happen.