When I was in middle school, one of my very best friends and I got into a fight.
It was a middle school fight, so of course I don’t remember what it was about, and it was over in three days. During that time, though, my friend started hanging out with the closest thing I’ve ever had to a nemesis (or enemy, or whatever you want to call it), and they’d sit and talk about me sometimes.
When we’d started talking again, my friend told me that this other girl had at one point described me using the following, which I never forgot:
“Yeah…Arianna…she’s one of those people you either get too much of or not enough.”
I was twelve or thirteen at the time and couldn’t really grasp what she meant, at least not for a week or so. During those days, those words kept rolling over and over in my brain like bread dough. You know how sometimes, you know something has meaning but you can’t quite figure out what? That was my brain, for days. Then I realized what it meant, and I was hurt.
It was a (surprisingly erudite, for a sixth grader) way of saying that you either love me, or you hate me —that I was “a lot,” and it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. It wasn’t the last either.
In fact, throughout my life I’ve been told variations of this sentiment by friends and family, and by acquaintances who grossly overestimate how close we really are. Those of you reading this who’re like me know what I mean. You’ve probably heard ‘em all, too:
“I gotta be honest. When I first met you, I didn’t like you.”
“Wow. You…have a lot to say…”
Or my personal favorite, said by a friend of one specific friend: “Yeah, ___ just feels uncomfortable around you now because you said ___. I mean, I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but (insert some deep life secret you didn’t know about and couldn’t possibly have known would be a touchy subject), so he/she/they felt that it would be better if they just took a break from you for awhile.”
Hearing things like that enough tended to make you want to change, right? You probably caught yourself thinking that you’d try to be quieter this time, that you wouldn’t speak out of turn. This time, you told yourself, you’d be more like the kind of person that everyone else seems to like. Then maybe, you won’t ruffle feathers and you’ll make friends easier.
It never really worked for more than a day, I bet. You’d eventually feel exhaustion at the idea of holding too many things back, and you’d just explode back into yourself. And you’d feel happier for it, even if other people didn’t necessarily.
And hell, if you’re here, you have kids. And when you have kids, you wind up meeting other parents. And you want those parent friends so badly, you’re willing to play nice for a while. If only so you can have a talk with someone else who gets the feeling of having to stop talking every five minutes to yell “DON’T TOUCH THAT” or “WHERE ARE YOU GOING STAY WHERE I CAN SEE YOU.”
But then you make a comment about drinking, or you let a swear word slip, or you lose your shit when your kid tries to run off again, and you see that look in the other parents’ eye that tells you they probably won’t be asking to hang out anymore. That look that other people have been giving you throughout your life that says “they’re a lot.”
It probably wears on you sometimes. You catch yourself oscillating between joking about what an asshole you are and owning it, and feeling like you’d be so much better off if you could just change to be more palatable to everyone. Then you feel ridiculous that you’re an adult still angsting like a fourteen-year-old kid, and then you go make yourself a vodka-soda and instead spend your time carefully choosing TV shows that highlight people who have worse lives than yours.
Those of us who are “a lot” feel that way often. So I’m here to tell you that (1) you’re not alone, and (2) You are not “a lot.” Nor are you an “acquired taste,” “good in small doses,” or any other some such descriptor that suggests that you’re cough syrup or whiskey.
You are passionate, and outspoken. You’re ballsy and your sense of humor is out there, and you’re loyal. You probably yell at your kids and feel bad about it later, but not enough to stop doing it, because they don’t seem to care, so why should you? You might curse like a sailor. You may interrupt people a lot when you really don’t mean to. You might get so excited to hang out without diapers or back-talk that you go a mile a minute. Maybe you don’t do any of those things, and you just struggle with mental illness or personal issues that call for patience. Maybe you’re not any of those things, and you’ve just got enough personality for two people.
Whatever you’ve got going on, the people who have to work to love you aren’t the people you’re looking for. The labor it takes for them to accept you isn’t indicative of something wrong with you; it isn’t indicative of something wrong with them either. Instead, it means that in the chocolate-wine pairing that is life, you belong with another bottle. Don’t make them think that you aren’t decadent, just because you don’t complement each other.
I think I’ve gotten my point across, but I’ll say it one more time, as simply as I can: YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. You’ve got this life thing all figured out and you don’t even know it yet. Just keep giving all that you’ve got, and I’m sure the people who deserve you will agree: that’s the perfect amount.