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I’ve been trying to chase my dream all my life. And that is trying to go back in time and get myself back.

I might seem like a person who just can’t move on with her life. And I wouldn’t argue that I’m not. I don’t know about you, but the process of growing up took away who I really am.

I was that kid who never fit in and didn’t care to. I was bullied time and again, but came out as a winner. Or at least I think I won. A traumatic childhood made me angry and hate everybody. I thought people would always hate me and I’d just hate them right back.

I was hurt by the kids who should have been friends, or at least they should have tried to be decent. But kids are way crueller than you think. They hurt each other all the time. Verbally and physically. Maybe I just grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. You can’t choose your family.

It felt right to hate and do whatever it took to be better than them. I might have acted like I didn’t care or I could study by myself and thrive. And I could. I did. But I’m a human being and deep down inside I needed a friend. Someone who wouldn’t punch or scream at me just because I came from somewhere else.

Growing up, I made observations. I read about impression formation and attribution for my master’s degree research. I learned then how to make people like me. It’s psychological for the most part. People in business must know this very well.

Wanting people to like me wasn’t the only reason I tried to change myself and be a better version of me. It’s just that society expects that of you as a grownup. Wear this, don’t wear that. Do this instead of that. Lower your voice. Don’t say that in front of people because it’ll hurt their feelings even though they’re dead wrong.

Social norms mold you into something average people in a particular society admire.

Is that admirable thing you, though? Most of the time it’s not.

I was a miserable teen. I shut myself in with loud music and manga. I wrote fanfiction in the middle of the night and napped in class the next day. I daydreamed about being somewhere else.

I daydreamed about being somewhere I can shut my eyes and breathe peacefully.

I didn’t care what others thought of me or my choice. I was okay with being different. I’d rather be hated than be someone else.

I never forget what I want. Somehow, though, to be where you want to be, you need to be someone else first. It’s funny how complicated life is. It’s even funnier that we humans create this cage that is the norm to live in.

Is this really who I am? I often asked myself. I pretended that I was myself and I needed to do what my fellow writers do because that was what every writer should do to succeed.

But who defines your success?

Shouldn’t it be you?

I lived by others’ approval and became consumed by the desire to win over everyone.

Finally, I came to the point where I could no longer stand the person who I became. Someone who didn’t fight and let people treat her like a doormat because she was afraid to be hated. An outcast.

You should be kind, yes. But that doesn’t mean letting people punch you over and over. It doesn’t mean letting other people’s opinions get bigger than yours. Some people are bullies. And always will be.

I thought of my younger self and questioned: why couldn’t I just be who I dreamed to be when I was young. I never wanted to be liked by every single person on this planet. I wasn’t born to please people.

I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be myself, do what I want, write what I please and connect with my readers.

I still want to be that person. So why shouldn’t I be if I can. Whether or not some people like me doesn’t matter. I don’t have to fit in if that place isn’t for me.

I’m doing what I love. I have a family and friends who really care about me. What more do I want?

And is it worth giving up myself and my happiness?

It is never worth it.

During this quarantine, I get the chance to do all the things I used to do as a kid. Things that took me back in time to myself. I just realize what I’ve been chasing is right here. I’m right here.

I don’t think it’s too late. I’ve been longing for what I abandoned as I grew up and tried to fit in. Now I’m picking up what I left behind because I know now what’s important.

It might take a while, but this is life. You pick yourself up piece by piece. And that’s okay.