About halfway through the summer, a complete and utter shitstorm descended upon my life. Seriously, I can’t describe it any other way. A close friend died and another attempted suicide all while I was acting as one of two primary caregivers for a family member battling a rare form of cancer. Also, I have a full-time job beyond grieving and being a pillar of strength for others, so it was rough.
Needless to say, I didn’t have the same repository of time and energy to devote to convincing everyone around me that I am so chill.
The reality is, I am less Rachel Green and more the Costanzas (like, George and his parents): opinionated, excitable, loud, and always accompanied by a laundry list of neuroses and mild-to-severe anxiety. So when I found myself without the energy to put every action, text, and conversation through the “is this chill?” filter, it pretty quickly changed my life—specifically how I respond to issues of toxic masculinity and the patriarchy.
The reality is, I’m less Rachel Green and more the Costanzas (like, George and his parents): opinionated, excitable, loud, and always accompanied by a laundry list of neuroses and mild-to-severe anxiety.
I like to consider myself an intersectional feminist set on dismantling these types of inequities women are tasked with overcoming, but that’s not chill. What is though, is refuting the idea that as a woman, I’m predisposed to being “bitchy,” emotionally volatile, overly sensitive, or hysterical. So, for a long time, I acted in deference to thoughts I found problematic and people I found offensive. It was just a habit, my equilibrium—not a choice I felt I was consciously making. And because I skew to extreme, rather than picking and choosing my battles, I sat out of every single one of them; I ended up putting absolutely everything through the chill filter.
This was draining, as it went against my natural inclination to be a blunt, straight shooter who may sometimes come across as batshit. I’ve spent hours (truly, so many hours) reconstructing text messages to go from “……are you shitting me???” to “ok sounds good.” While a select few—I’m talking literally like four total humans including family members—were privy to, and thus not subject to, my passive habit, it was otherwise my default in all of my relationships. Until it wasn’t.
The first time I abandoned my chill was at a good friend’s birthday party shortly after the series of unfortunate events that recently took hold of my life. Someone who knew enough about my situation to not bother me with mindless drivel asked me for a self-serving, personally taxing favor. Though immediately outraged, before responding, I starting going through the mental motions of deciding “will this make me seem insane or melodramatic?” But before the chill filter could finish computing, my complete lack of energy and headspace took the driver’s seat, and, man, did this inconsiderate mouth breather catch my wrath.
It’s not worth the energy to tell every manspreader on the subway what’s up, but chillness being my emotional default proved limiting for me.
It was liberating and cathartic! Allowing myself to express my feelings the way I was actually experiencing them felt like taking the cover off a pressurized blowhole. And once I let my neurotic, melodramatic flag fly high, I was able to filter out unfulfilling friendships in my life and also Kondo my social habits with a “joy-sparking test” of sorts. What actually brings me joy is not self-censoring, steering clear of those who can’t deal with my lack of chill, and instead spending time with those who enjoy my brashness.
And while it might not be worth the energy to tell every manspreader on the subway what’s up, the notion of chillness being my emotional default proved limiting. Because only when I turned off my chill filter did I actually feel some welcome calmness in my chaotic life.
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