This one is for the outsiders.
The ones who walk into a room and wonder if they’re going to find a friend. If people are going to see them, welcome them. “Will I be overdressed? Underdressed? Will I say the right thing? Will they think my jokes are funny?”
This is for the ones who, on their best days, look at themselves in the mirror, turn up the tunes, and put on the wild earrings before they go out. They freely belt out the lyrics into their hairbrush-microphone because it doesn’t matter; they know it is going to be fun.
And for the ones who, on their worst days, look themselves in the mirror, take a deep breath, and fix the last lock of hair before they go out. Closing eyes, sighing deeply, they think through how they’re going to leave early and be home by nine.
As we migrate back out into backyard barbecues and invitations for coffee, I am hearing the nervous whispers of women who found the last two years wildly liberating. Instead of psyching themselves up into Wonder Woman or wallflower, they had the luxury of saying “no” to environments that had previously stressed them out. It was a season of diminishing the power of places and people that had no business defining or naming them. It was two years of being disentangled from a burden of expectations that had pressed and shaped us in ways that should have had no authority over us.
Instead of being exhausted by trying to be more or less, we got to just be.
It is not often that we are afforded spaces where we get to settle and nestle into our own identity. Like social orphans, we were given the chance to actually explore the things that make us thrive. Within this window of quarantine, we could scrutinize a lifetime of relationships and experiences and ask ourselves, “Is this worth it? Do these environments grow me? Or do I have to shrink to fit in? Is the anxiety worth it?” We were empowered to say no to invitations that made us show up as less than who we are. We could take the mental space to say, “Are these relationships actually good for me? Do they make me a better me?” And to reach for our phone and politely text back, “I’ll pass.”
I am thankful for the things I had to decline. The invitation to conversations that made my heart wither inside of me. Spaces where I had to cloak my own personality, feelings, or interests because I felt pressure to belong. Where I was truly psyching myself up in the mirror or figuring out an escape. Time and (social) distance gave me the wild privilege of waving my staff in the air like Gandalf, striking it on the ground, and yelling “You shall not pass” to a lot of social pressure and nonsense that was robbing my joy. It was like my space was growing around me.
And I can feel it. I feel it with the rest of my sisters. That sweeping out of the social clutter. The brave no-thank-you’s that liberated us from toxic dynamics, unhealthy friendships, and life suckers.
We cannot regress and trade in our courageous decisions just to go back to life as we once had it. Our aloneness is not punishment for refusing to assimilate. It is a newfound freedom to find our tribes, to link our arms with the people who actually get us and celebrate us. That actually like us. Instead of being tolerated, we are loved and valued for the ways we show up, both quiet and loud.
I know who I am and who I want to be around, and that is enough.
Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can because she believes in you.