I like rules. I have for as long as I can remember. When I traveled with my family and my mom would try to board the plane just one group before the one assigned to us, I would stand in place and refuse to go up with her. Back when you weren’t allowed to listen to music before takeoff on an airplane, I would make myself nearly sick with anxiety as my brother blatantly disobeyed the standard and well-known rules. Let’s just say I don’t like to cause waves. I like to maintain the calm at all costs and not draw any attention—something I didn’t fully realize about myself until I came to college.
Growing up in a conservative southern city, I was probably the cookie cutter teenage girl in Dallas—I sported those ridiculously oversized T-shirts (they’re actually extremely comfortable), rocked some pretty rad Chacos (similar to Tevas, but let’s be honest, they are completely different), had at least three different cowboy boots, and I would have taken my parent’s Republican political views to the grave. This was me, and I didn’t really think twice about how I was pretty much exactly the same as every other girl in my school. When I came to Boston College, my self-perception was on a rollercoaster. At one moment, I didn’t mind having the Longchamp tote bag I had since middle school, nor the black Hunter rain boots—materials deemed to be possessed by “The BC Bitty” (I hate that term, for the record). Yeah OK, so I have some of the same things as a lot of other people at BC—but up until I realized that everyone and their mother seemed to have them, I really did like these possessions. Once I realized that these objects were things that my peers rolled their eyes over, classifying them as “basic” among other descriptions, I thought twice before pulling them out of my closet.
On one side, I didn’t want to be just like everyone else. I wanted to sport my individuality and make sure I couldn’t simply be thrown into a classification of “typical.” But then on the flipside, I didn’t want to be completely different, either. For the first few months of freshman year, I walked around campus almost every day wearing my cowboy boots. I took pride in that sturdy pair of leather boots which represented my home, where I came from, and a bit of my personality. But quickly, I no longer wanted to face the stares that I felt were coming my way. I cringed every time I heard the clack-clack of the heels on the pavement, because I knew that sound welcomed weird looks. I retreated to my high school self, and simply wanted to blend in.
So I was stuck. Do I fashion the materials that, although I truly liked them, were regarded as standard uniform, or do I take pride in my unique accessory and rock them anyway? Throughout sophomore year, the boots only made one appearance—and it was for a country-themed party, no less. I finally had an excuse to wear them, because I knew that no questions would be asked.
Individual appearance was not the only aspect that was dulled once I came to BC. As mentioned, I was born into a conservative family where cursing was simply not tolerated (as deemed by my mother). Since birth practically, I have heard that “Ladies do not curse, Catherine, and gentlemen do not curse around ladies.” But once I came to college, so many guys and gals alike amazed me by throwing around the f-word like it was no one’s business. Sure, I would drop an f-bomb here or there on the volleyball court in high school when I would make a mistake, but I would never include it in a common conversation. I just didn’t get that kind of talk. Now, I hear the f-word and rarely think twice about it. In fact, I regrettably even include it my own casual conversations. Gone are the days when I would cringe at the mention, or make a mental note when someone’s mouth was particularly dirty. I have to question—is this just the way that we speak to each other now? Do I just need to accept this reality?
Part of me wants to hold on to the conservative, cowboy-boot-wearing gal from the South, because it does set me apart. But then again, there’s that other part of me that just wants to blend in and go with the flow.
I think we do need to hold on to what makes us individuals. Anyone can just follow the common vernacular, or dress the common uniform. It takes confidence to break out of this mode, and let one’s personality show, whether it be through dress or speech.
I’ve decided: the language is cleaning up and the boots are coming out.
Featured Image by Heights Graphics