I sat on the phone with my childhood best friend, reminiscing of days past in my hometown just across the bridge from Philadelphia. We laughed about growing up with our small, dysfunctional group of friends: road trips, arguments, car trunks, hanging out in the Burger King parking lot at 2 am after graduation (because what else is there to really do in South Jersey).

“Man, we really were our most genuine selves at seventeen,” he mused.

We were.

At seventeen I was carefree, outspoken, and surrounded by people that understood how I operated. They respected my values, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with them. We were very candid with our words, but there was never any malice or ill-intentions behind them. No matter the disagreements that could’ve pushed others apart, we always found our way back to one another. We were a family trying to find our way through life together. It was with them I was comfortable enough to be my truest self.

But adulthood tends to fuck things up. You grow up and get tossed into a world where people don’t know you or really give a fuck about you for that matter. You’re pushed all the way out of your comfort zone, which isn’t a bad thing. Stepping out into the world spurs change and growth, right?

But all too often I caught myself aching for that security.

Maybe it’s because in the midst of this adulting thing, I found myself in this constant state of cognitive dissonance. Gone were the days of contentment. I was no longer speaking my mind, but rather holding my tongue to keep the harmony. I ignored my intuition and befriended folks whose intentions were disingenuous simply to please other people. I was sad. My energy had been depleted. I was turning into someone I didn’t recognize anymore. I stopped being true to myself and it was killing my spirit, my inner peace. I was crumbling and rarely did anyone even notice.

It was in those moments, when I hit my emotional rock bottom, that I thought back to being that girl. I can’t go back to those days and be seventeen again (nor do I really want to be), but I respect her for knowing the importance of staying true to herself… For understanding that living an inauthentic life for the sake of receiving validation and acceptance from others is only doing a disservice to yourself.

That’s when I had to decide: superficial, spurious friendships or my sanity? The latter won out. I will no longer deal with the bullshit or feel guilty for speaking my truth. I vow to put my health and my happiness first because self-care isn’t selfish.

To put it simply: fuck you. I choose me.