Throughout my adolescence, I'd always been considered a good girl. I'm embarrassed to admit this because nobody likes the good girl.
Millennials, in particular, live in a weird culture in which making irresponsible mistakes, recklessly abusing your body and engaging in crazy antics is put on a pedestal, whereas following the rules, fearing punishment by authority and not actively putting yourself at risk for anything is seen as boring.
Because it's true. It is kind of boring.
People who have spent their entire lives acting with careless abandon are definitely cooler than me -- the good girl.
They've definitely had more sex and traveled to more countries and gotten into more trouble-turned-story adventures than I have, and for that, I’m jealous.
At this point in my life, though, I like to think I've sufficiently transitioned out of the good girl persona to which my younger self adhered.
But the journey wasn't easy, and along the way, I learned a hell of a lot about acceptance, open-mindedness and, most importantly, how to free myself from, well, myself.
I learned how to accept people who were different from me.
Before attending college, I had spent my entire life dichotomizing everything.
Sheltered by anxious, conservative parents and suburbia, I avoided things I considered "unacceptable" -- you and your drugs, alcohol, sex, atheism and stupid underground music -- and stuck with what I considered “acceptable" -- me and everything I liked and believed in.
In middle school and high school, I was pretty anal about my grades, being seen as sexually pure (I know, gag me) and emulating a certain “role model” personality.
The best part was people admired me for all of this, which confirmed, to me, that I was doing a good job.
In college, however, those good girl qualities that earned me such admiration throughout my community were challenged by my new friends and my new boyfriend, all of whom might as well have been from other planets.
They procrastinated on their schoolwork, got belligerently drunk on the weekends, argued about the existence of God and smoked lots of weed, which stunned little innocent me the most -- I mean, I never thought I'd interact with stoners, let alone befriend and date them.
Everyone I met was nothing like me, and I found myself unfairly judging them inside my head for being so different from me, for doing things I'd considered "unacceptable." It was exhausting.
But despite our vast differences, and despite the fact that I couldn't stop secretly condemning them, I truly loved my new friends and my boyfriend, and I wanted them to love me, too.
That's how I knew I needed to begin my journey out of the good girl mentality.
I learned how to be a more open-minded person.
I didn't want to spend the rest of my life being closed-minded and silently judgmental. I knew I couldn’t transform from angelic teenager into liberated adult overnight, but I tried to as quickly as possible, knowing if I didn't, I would forever be subjected to the voices in my head that criticized people I loved.
I began my transformation by putting less pressure on myself academically, discovering feminism and trying to care slightly less about what people thought of me.
The open-mindedness I gradually cultivated as a result of all of this gave me the freedom to discover a whirlwind of new things: amazing underground bands, hidden gem TV shows, interesting political ideas and delicious brands of beer.
I was in full control, picking and choosing experiences, political ideologies and media tastes a la carte, treating differences like learning opportunities instead of opportunities for judgment.
My old motto -- “remain cautious” -- had officially been rejected for a new one: “Try everything once.”
I learned how to develop a true sense of self.
Okay, so even during my transition out of the good girl phase, I didn't dive right into a so-called rebellious phase. I was cautiously rebellious, so to speak.
I didn't try "everything" once -- just things I wanted to.
And this frustrated me.
I constantly asked myself why I couldn't just hook up with a random person like everyone else did, why I couldn't just drink excessively until I blacked out like everyone else did, why I couldn't just try this drug like everyone else did.
No matter how hard I tried, no matter how close I got to doing certain things in the name of rejecting my good girl status, I just couldn't f*cking do it.
I felt so annoyed with my inability to lighten up, to find my rebellious spirit, to engage with "youth," as one of my fellow "good girl" friends would say.
Why couldn't I go full throttle into the anti-good girl? What was wrong with me?
It was then when I realized putting pressure on myself to behave in a certain way was exactly what I was trying to stop doing -- and here I was, doing it all over again.
Once I learned the importance of doing things because I wanted to do them and not because they would confirm my status as good girl or anti-good girl, I was able to give myself genuine permission to do whatever I wanted.
Ironically, when I removed the pressure to adhere to any specific persona, I developed a more stable sense of self.
I developed the ability to really, truly be me.
I learned people are flawed and make mistakes, and that it's okay.
Developing a sense of self in which you allow yourself to do whatever you want definitely comes with learning how to accept the fact that you will make mistakes.
Whereas I'd once felt proud for never failing a test, I learned that sometimes, the new season of “Orange Is The New Black” comes on, and that's more important than studying, and that’s okay.
Whereas I'd once felt proud for my clean record of never going back to exes after we broke up, I learned that sometimes, you have unfinished business, and you still love each other, and that's okay.
Whereas I'd once felt proud for never engaging in an inappropriate drunk texting conversation, I learned that sometimes, drinking really does make us do dumb sh*t sometimes, and that's okay.
I learned far too late in life that sometimes, we're not perfect. We slip up. We act irresponsibly. We do things that others might not agree with.
And you know what? Finally, finally, I'm okay with that.