Tuesday nights were my comedy nights. I’d make a big ol’ bowl of stove top popcorn, smother it in butter, pour a big ol’ glass of white wine, sit cross legged in the center of my couch, and laugh my heart out at New Girl and The Mindy Project. If you called or texted during those shows you didn’t exist to me. Granted I would check my text and voicemail to make sure no one died or was dying- no one ever died or was dying.
Watching the Mindy Project gave way to buying her book “Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me?”. I started the book and could not put it down, except when I had to like to go to the bathroom, pay for the soy vanilla latte I wanted to sip on as I read, go to work, oh and sleep. Then of course you had Mindy on a series of talk shows where she was talking about being herself. But not like her Beyonce self, Brad Pitt self, or Sarah Jessica Parker self.No her real brown Indian not a size 2, 4, or 6 and I don’t need to be , no blonde hair and no Hollywood I’m not dying it blonde either, I like and eat sweets several times a week if I want self. It was somewhere between refreshing and revolutionary. Which is kind of sad if you think about it. A human being being a human being, not a version of a human being- mind blowing. Nonetheless Mindy was out there being all authentic and as someone who was feeling like she was losing her own authenticity I was beyond appreciative of all that Mindy was daring to put out into the world. That she was daring to continue putting herself out into the world, her not a fan of one night stands, believer in marriage and romance, knows the difference between men and boys (and by boys- grown men according to age but not lifestyle) and preferring men, has experienced rejection and lived to tell about it, hardworking, ridiculously humorous, and unapologetic self out there.
It’s hard to care for, love, nurture, and protect that which has become strange to us. It’s hard to recognize our thoughts, voice, hopes, and dreams, when they’ve been smudged by hardship and unexpected circumstances that we never bother to clean (aka process- make meaning of when possible, let go as often as necessary). It’s hard to convince others that we matter when we have stopped reminding ourselves that we matter.
Mindy Kaling could have written about any number of things but she chose to write about herself. And even then, she could have offered up a version of herself, the version that didn’t admit to enjoying doughnuts so much, the time things didn’t work out with a guy that she spent half a day and dropped some money on preparing to go to dinner with only for him to cancel via text, or that she has items in her closet from Forever 21 (or had anyway she totally left that jacket at a party she skipped out early on), and the list goes on. Read the book, I’m not offering up cliff notes.
The point is watching the Mindy Project, as well as reading and rereading her book has been a great reminder that one of the best ways to take care of myself is to be myself. It is hard keeping up with a version of me. It’s much easier to be my authentic self and live in a way that honors that person. It makes for better and healthier relationships, decisions about how I spend my time, energy, and creativity, career and academic decisions. It allows my yes to be yes and my no to be no, for my boundaries to be in place and effective.
I’ve had guys ask me what was the best date I went on and I don’t hesitate to share that it was going to a basketball game where we had amazing seats. Afterwards we went to his place and had pizza and wings. The second best date, just going to his place and watching the game and having pizza and wings. Do you know why these dates stand out? Because I was so myself, not a version of myself. My jeans, t shirt, and bomber style jacket and boots. My sloppy top knot and mascara and lip gloss only beauty regimented face. All of my trash talking and eating three slices of pizza and about half the wings and not caring what he thought about a girl who….likes to eat pizza and wings self. I was comfortable. I was bringing myself not a version of myself, not selling myself, just myself to these dates. While things didn’t work out in the long run, it wasn’t because of the aspect of myself that I enjoyed basketball, pizza, and wings at his place. It was because of a different aspect of myself. But here’s the thing, I didn’t change that for him and I don’t regret that choice.
The jobs that I’ve enjoyed the most were jobs where I could show up, not a version of me that met my employers satisfaction. The friendships that have lasted the longest are the ones where I could show up. In fact one of my friends is particularly amazing at making room for people to show up whether at their best or absolute worse.
Be your doughnut eating, forever 21 jacket wearing (read the book), three slices of pizza and half the wings with the guy on date number four eating, calling out gender bias and discrimination in front of the administration, self. It is liberating. It’s hard to take care of prisoners, especially the self imprisoned. And if you need some serious modeling of how to just be you grab your copy of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. Read, laugh, love yourself, be yourself, eat a doughnut, and repeat.