I’m not afraid to eat alone

I’m a little strange in that if you see me out eating somewhere, I’m most likely to be alone.

People will look at me like I’m a leper, my friends will come and sit with me squealing about “why I would ever sit alone?”, and every once in awhile a stranger will give me a smile of solidarity from the next table over when they (briefly) glance up from their blackberry/iPhone/iPad/etc.

Let’s just get one thing straight – I’m not afraid to eat alone.

In the process of “rewriting my storyline,” I’ve spent a lot of time in self-reflection, just working to get to know myself again. People are constantly telling me that I am such a strong woman, so independent, an inspiration. But sometimes when I look in the mirror I wonder if we’re looking at the same person – total Mulan moment. Instead of all of the qualities and accomplishments others see when they look at me, I see my faults, my flaws, my weaknesses.

I’ve talked time and time again about how I rarely see the start of the calendar year as a time of “rebirth” so to speak, but rather the fall. The beginning of a new school year always has seemed like a more fitting time to make a fresh start… For me anyway. And I mean, F. Scott Fitzgerald (only one of my favorite authors of all time) agreed with me when he penned The Great Gatsby. So obviously I’m correct, right?

Whether you agree with me on this one or not, theres no mistaking that it definitely is a time of new beginnings – especially for those who are still in school and beginning a new year. I can’t help but feel like even when I’m out of school… like in 108 days… I won’t be able to escape the grasp of the feeling I get when summer begins to fade into fall. And to be honest, I hope I never do.

For the majority of my life, I was an active proponent that summer was the best only season (that mattered). Since I moved to the South, I’ve found myself falling more and more in love with autumn. (If you’re wondering “where is this crazy girl going with all of this… Eating alone, Mulan, fall?!” – just trust me. I’m making my point soon, Your Honor.) It honestly surprises me to think how easy it has been for me to fall in love with brisk breezes tousling my hair, dead leaves crunching under my feet, “sweater weather”, and even (as basic as it is) pumpkin everything. Which got me thinking. If all it took for me to fall in love with fall was a change in my perspective of the season… what does that mean for those of us working so hard to fall in love with ourselves?

Mind blown, right? Is it really that easy? Like, is changing our perspective all it takes to (even just begin to) fall in love with who we are as individuals? Well, I’m a lover {and a political scientist and research driven mind} so I decided to take it to the test.

I’m quite nostalgic, a “keeper” if you will. Let me explain my intentions with that word, because I mean clearly I’m a keeper (duh) but what I actually mean is that I hold onto things that have sentimental value for me. Mostly this is in the form of notes and letters my friends have written to me. So, I went through them – and I really took to heart what they had to say about me. Then I began to ask my closest friends (some subtly, others flat out) what they think my strengths and weaknesses are, and I really took those to heart because I knew I could trust their answers to be the truth – not just what they thought I wanted to hear.

This quote is from one of my very favorite novels, To Kill A Mockingbird, and no matter how many times I read and reread the story these words always strike me straight to the core. I thought of them as I was doing all of this, because I realized that you can never really understand a person until you climb inside of his skin, but maybe to understand ourselves we have to do just the opposite – climb out of it and see ourselves the way others do.

My friends see me as “a strong woman, so independent, an inspiration.” But they also see me as a role model. A woman who loves to love – someone who loves people, even when they don’t deserve or ask for it. Fearless and confident without losing my tone of respect and dignity. They see me as bright, charming, and charismatic. Someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, and tends to be (a little?) stubborn and bull-headed from time to time. A good listener, a great friend, and someone worth fighting for. Even as I sit here typing this, I can’t help but think, Me? They think that about me?!

I don’t say these things to “toot my own horn” or stroke my own ego, but rather to share my experiences. I’ve always been an incredibly independent person, but I draw my strength from the people who love me – and my fire and drive from the people who don’t believe in me. Sometimes I have to allow myself to lean on those I love more than I want to, and I’m still working on accepting that and knowing that it is o k a y to do. (Lately being a key example.) I guess what I’m trying to say is… Sometimes you just need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to see you how others do. In a world that belittles interdependency and magnifies unrealistic expectations, IT IS OKAY TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE HUMAN. Yes, I said it. Needing others is human nature, and if you have a problem with that – you can take an educated guess as to where I’m going to tell you to go.

When you’re happy with who you are as a person (or at least who you are becoming) you find a special peace. When you begin to see the immeasurable value and worth you have, you begin to fall in love with yourself {maybe again}. No longer do you walk into a room and wonder if the people in it will like you, you wonder if you’ll like them. You grow comfortable in the very skin you had to crawl out of to find yourself. You embrace your goofy tendencies and the way your hair gets frizzy when it rains. You begin to realize that while sometimes you need to see yourself from a different perspective, that the incredible person you see when you look in the mirror has been there all along. You’ve always been this inspiring badass with so much to bring to the table… You just needed a little help to wipe the fog from the mirror.

As for me? I know what I bring to the table. So trust me when I say I’m not afraid to eat alone.