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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Letting "them" go

I’ve always cared a bit too much about what other people think. For instance, I’ve been self-employed for more than five years, and I often work in pajama pants. Let’s say 2 o’clock rolled around and I wanted to check the mailbox. Some days I’d scamper to the mailbox and pray nobody saw me. Other days I’d quickly change into different pants so my neighbors didn’t think I’d been in pajamas all day — though they’d be right. So why did I care?

Because "I don’t want them to think X.”

And, unfortunately for me, that was a recurring thought — when I bought a plethora of candy at the grocery store, when I ordered food from a restaurant, or when I chose what to wear to a special event. I allowed the universal “them” to have a say in decisions that were mine to make.

It’s human instinct to seek acceptance. Back when things were a bit more cave dweller-ish, survival required social support and group protection from predators and enemies. If wearing my pajama pants to the mailbox meant I wouldn’t eat for a week, that would be one thing.

But if the worst-case scenario is that a neighbor thinks, "Must be nice to do nothing all day,” who cares? I’ll never know what they thought unless I see a passive-aggressive post on Nextdoor saying, “This neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. People check their mail in pajamas.” And that would actually be hilarious.

When Ramón died after 3+ months in the hospital, I was running on empty. I was so gutted that it took too much energy to step into any of the various roles I’d learned to play throughout my life. For example, I’d grown highly adept at activating No Profanity mode when I was around my parents. But when I returned to their house fresh after Ramón’s death, I stayed in Standard mode and let the profanity fly. What the f*** was anybody gonna do about it? Make the widow put money in a swear jar?

I gave myself permission to be my rawest, truest self — the one that required no effort — and it felt so right. That’s when something clicked for me. It was time to put “me” before the collective “them” when making decisions about my life. I shouldn’t let “them” have a say in what I want to do with my life.

I recently got the house painted in some bold colors, and I love it. Though I’ll admit, I let “them” creep into my mind when choosing colors.

This time it was in the form of, “What about the resale value?”

And I thought to myself, “What the f*** about it?”

The colors bring me joy, especially when I’m outside admiring the house in my pajama pants.

"What a happy house!" - Neighbors

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