On Being Yourself.

By: Jen Shoop

Moving a year and a half ago has whisked me into a spray of new social settings. Even existing friendship groups have felt different, have needed to be tried on and adjusted for size. In the throes of these meetings and reunions, one friend told me, “We write narratives about the people we don’t see regularly,” and I knew exactly what she meant. We lean on the phantasmagoria of social media, or stories heard-second-hand, and we draft a portrait that may or may not be true. I am thinking of the bioluminescent creatures in my son’s favorite deep sea book: on one page, you see an alluring network of incandescent dots intended to obscure the fish’s actual shape, either flummoxing or attracting fellow sea creatures; on the other page, you see the fish, fully contoured, as it appears up-close and in real life.

I feel as though I know myself fairly well, but these interactions with friends old and new have stretched me. There have been harrowing interactions, and life-affirming ones. There have been instances where I have felt one inch tall, ones where I have been fully embraced for who I truly am, and ones where I have cringed at undeserved laud, a prodigal son (daughter) returning home. Sometimes, to my friend’s earlier insight, I have felt I am performing — either a former version of myself, or some version of myself I think they want me to be. On occasion, I have needed to burrow into my home life, say no to things and people, just to get my sea legs back. And in some cases, I have felt malleable to the point of adrift. I have entered rooms and found myself unwittingly re-shaped by the sonar of the social setting. I remember leaving one party that was, frankly, full of adult “mean girls” and having a strong urge to call a grade school girlfriend to commiserate. How could I let strangers make me feel that way?

There have been rooms in which I’ve gone quiet, others in which I’ve overshared, and still others in which I’ve found myself straining to present a particular angle of my prism.

All of this can occasionally lead me to the kind of miserliness in which I think, “I have enough friends as it is…” But —

This is life: trying on new people and places. Making new circles. Sometimes looping back and doubling down on the ones you already have. Growth happens in discomfort. I just need to show up with earnest friendliness. And remind myself (which I often do, in the car just outside of a gathering) to listen more than I speak and to remember, in the words of Oscar Wilde*: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”


*This quote is likely apocryphally attributed to Wilde, or an abridgment of something longer he wrote.

+On work friends.

+On female friendships and the things that matter.

+On getting over a failed friendship.

Shopping Break.

+If you see me wearing jeans, I am wearing Madewell’s Perfect Vintage style about 90% of the time. I just can’t quit them. Go a full size down — these run big.

+Love this striped shirtdress. ($69!)

+Per usual, Minnow’s latest collection is adorable. Love the Bahamian blue stripe pieces.

+Pamela Munson just released a petite version of my favorite spring/summer bag in such great colors: dusty blue, petunia, and lilac. I sung the praises of this bag in this post, though do note I have a larger size. The smaller one might be more realistic for everyday life if you’re not schlepping as much around.

+These “tulip” baskets are so chic.

+I just love the look of these outdoor swivel chairs.

+Wrist weights — I’m intrigued by these, as I think I want to start doing the “strength-training” Apple Fitness videos. I usually just do the core and cycling ones. More recent fitness finds here.

+Pretty spring pillows.

+A perfect spring shoe.

+Gap, is that you?! This dress!!!

+How adorable is this desk lamp for a little girl?

+OMG these party hats!

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4 thoughts on “On Being Yourself.

  1. 1. I am a bit behind on your posts. I love reading them and look forward to catching up
    2. Being back at my alma mater as a 30-something has been as you mentioned, a prodical daughter of sorts. All my professors knew me/know me through social media, and it’s been 13 years since I’ve been there on a daily basis. My body isn’t the same for a number of reasons, mostly age and health issues. And it’s just so unfair I’m not the 22 year-old healthy bright-eyed and bushy naive girl I was. Yet I also wouldn’t want to be her again. I’ve learned and unlearned a lot.
    3. Making friends as an adult is hard work and takes time but so worth it. I’ve met new ladies in the league. I’m going out to dinner and brunches with former work colleagues. And I’m just meeting new people out and about. I am putting myself out there again. But I’ve also had to let some friends go, some by choice and some not. One died last fall. One doesn’t respond to me anymore. And another well part of it is my fault and part of it is hers.

    The one friend I ended it with, didn’t have the common decency to tell me the updated plans on where dinner was. I drove almost 30 min to her house thinking we were headed to the city. But the new plan was 10 min from my house. I gave her her birthday present. I showed up and dressed up. But heading back to Boulder I was a bit annoyed, tired, and frustrated thay I felt I was the joke since everyonebut me knew. She was like, ‘I wondered why you came all this way.’ She forgot to tell me the vital piece of information of we’ve changed venues yet again. I had taken a social media break and I didn’t understand why someone could not be bothered so send what I thought was a simple text. I had even reread the texts and had asked her to keep me posted as I wasn’t on social media at that time. Am I the one who was in the wrong? Because I didn’t bother going to dinner? She ended up cancelling our cooking class plans later that month and I haven’t heard from her since. I felt like I was back in middle school all over again. My friend who had died earlier that month I found out via social media and I needed to get off. It made me realise life is too important and if someone is in my email address book and phone contacts they deserve to learn on a more personal level than social media big life things or only learn life events after they have been told directly.

    Anyways I love your posts and look forward to catching up on them. And figuring out who I am being back ‘home,’ because I am hopefully slightly more mature, less naive, and a jaded for better of worse due to what life has dealt. But I am thrilled and grateful for being back in academia and on a Jesuit campus again.

    1. Hi Michelle! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying reading my recent essays; thanks for commenting so vulnerably here. I love the way you wrote this: “I’ve learned and unlearned a lot.” Yes! Sometimes getting older / wiser / more mature is outgrowing thought patterns, discarding the ones that have proven untrue. I love that framing.

      I’m sorry about the ups and downs in your personal life and glad that you’ve made space for people that will care for you and treat you well. Life is too short to have it otherwise. My sister once told me to pay attention to the people who “fill my cup” vs “drain my cup” and it was eye opening.

      Thanks for sharing!


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