The Daydreamer

Whether it is a college interview, class assignment or an inquiry from a curious relative, I often end up being asked that classic get-to-know-you question: how would your friends describe you? Well, I did not have an answer and apparently my friends did not either. 

As an ice-breaker at a group event, we had to sit around in a circle and share one nice thing about each other. And when my friends were asked, the only adjective they could come up with was, “nice”. I was internally wounded and honestly more than a little frustrated that they had such a blurry idea of who I was as a person. Some of these individuals I had known for years, yet they were not able to come up with a single, more descriptive adjective. It really would only have taken a thirty second internet search for a thesaurus. I started to hate the “nice” label, the person who is not actively disliked, but rather fades into obscurity. All I wanted was to feel seen, but I felt like I was right below the surface, a dull shadow hidden by the glare off the water.

By realizing that the people who mattered would take the time to truly understand me, I was able to avoid focusing on arbitrary labels. (Photo by Karuna Chandran)

Last summer, I went to a two-week marine science camp at UC Davis. I viewed it as a fresh start, an opportunity to shield my current image and maybe be remembered for once. But even in this new environment, I was right back to being the “nice one” again, with the word coming up repeatedly in conversation. But there was a difference. When I talked to my fellow campers, I had this feeling they were actually listening to me. When I told my stories, I could tell they really wanted to hear. When I was talking to one of my new friends and she noted that I was a fairly positive person, she added on right after that often it’s the optimists who struggle with feeling like they have to put on a brave face when times are tough. 

I was shocked that she had read me so quickly and so easily. Another person I was talking to said they appreciated that I asked direct questions and was always trying to understand the importance behind what we were learning. I loved these wonderful new friends I had made and embraced the fact that no matter where I was, I was probably stuck with this label for life. After all, there are worse things in life than being known as nice.

I realized that some random responses in an awkward group share did not define me as a person or define my relationships with others. A slightly vague adjective was not a representation of how much I mattered to those around me. If the people in my life truly cared, they would always make the time to learn about the real me.