I realized today (roughly five years after everyone else in my age group) that I’m becoming more comfortable with myself, not having to convince everyone of certain things. I walked into Ulta–that giant cosmetics store–walked straight up to the salesgirl, and boldly proclaimed, “I’m low maintenance. I am a BB cream and mascara girl, and I need your help finding bronzer.”
Rewind five, three, or even one year ago, and I’d still be cowering behind the Clinique counter, trying to give everyone the impression that I was high maintenance like them. Now, I’m just a Peace Corps hippie. (You be the judge as to whether that’s an improvement or not!)
I’ve always tried to fit in by blending in–it’s one of the reasons I love traveling but hate being a tourist. My objective in a new place is always to “look like a local.” It’s also why I am an obsessive memorizer, frantically memorizing vocabulary and concepts so that I can “talk the talk” in whatever subject is current. I think this is actually something that’s helped me in my internships and ventures.
It could be traced back to high school, when I moved across the country to Tennessee and I had to learn to adapt very quickly to stay afloat in a prep school setting. I very quickly learned to pretend that I could afford to wear Hollister and to catch up on pop culture so I understood the Napoleon Dynamite jokes (remember those days?)
It could also be traced to my family roots, a bunch of very hardy people who endure tragedies, financial hardships, family drama and separation like real tough Scotch-Irish bros in a potato famine.
But now, what once was posing is now a life skill: adaptability. This is a skill that I am definitely going to employ in the Peace Corps, and in my career afterward. It’s part of who I am: jump in, learn the culture, live as a local.
At least as much as a tall, blond American can do. :)