Growing up I was always someone who could bounce between friendship groups and, without too much effort, get along with everyone. I had cool pals, geeky pals, pals without other pals, pals with loads of pals and I felt as comfortable with the boys as I did with the girls. Apart from one terrible year of bullying and exclusion; an experience so foreign and traumatic for me that it sent me on a rapid decline in to what I now know was depression; my friendships have, in the larger part, been quite pleasant.
I was the no-drama gal. I was the mediator when it came to schoolyard disputes. I advocated for disability access in the school, I coordinated the peer support program in year ten and, even from those early years of my school life, I have always seen the importance of helping others to be treated justly, to be heard and understood.This easy-going, justice loving trait has become a part of my identity and has shaped the path that would lead me where I am today.
Throughout high school I developed a chameleon-like talent for changing my behaviour and personality to suit whoever I was spending time with. If I was hanging out with my friend C (let's call her C because, funnily enough, her name begins with C) my sense of humour would come to the fore. We spent most of our time together cracking each other up and singing nineties pop songs. We got drunk at parties and would spend our pocket money on Peter Jacksons and Bubble-O-Bills. This was the "me" that emerged when I spent time with C; the drinking, smoking, ice cream eating, hilarious good time girl. Not so bad, but not that great for me either.
My friendship with H began in year nine. The teachers loved it when I became closer to H, because, despite being quite likeable and easy to get along with, I wasn't the hardest worker. My motto was "less is more" i.e. less work = more fun. When H came onto the scene my interest in academics increased in a dramatic way. Both the quality and quantity of the work I was submitting improved tenfold and it was all because of dear H. H was one of two daughters of a very intelligent professor who had, five years prior, lost his wife to cancer. So H and her sister were raised by her dad and H's natural intelligence combined with her father's insistence on working hard meant that H's grades were constantly awesome. In my chamelion-like fashion, when I hung out with H, I became a fantastic student. I could see something in H that I wanted to be able to find in myself and it was a brilliant lesson in self direction that this change did actually occur in me.
Some may feel that my changeability is a flaw however I don't think that my talent for altering myself is necessarily such a negative thing. In fact, I feel it has helped me to connect with people with whom I may not otherwise have connected. I am a social worker now, and this ability to become like the person I am speaking to can be very useful. I am much more subtle about it as an adult and, fortunately, unlike in my teenage years, I no longer "become" the person I am with. These days my skills are used to empathise with those I come in to contact with and as a result, I still have the same mediator-like role in the lives of my friends, colleagues and clients. Most people would still say that I'm the no-drama girl, which is nice, I think.
Another lesson that I am continually re learning and refining is about who I choose to spend my time with. Because of my chameleonism, I know there is a danger that if I spend too much time with negative Nellies, I will actually become one myself. If I hang out with people who have really destructive habits I will most likely take those, or similar habits on board for myself. This could be a daunting and scary thought... It really could be. However I am making the choice to see this as a wonderful opportunity to decide who I want to be. What do I find inspiring? Who is awesome in my book? Where do I want to take my life and my work? Who exudes rad-ness!?
I can ask myself these questions and then seek out people from whose butts this rad-ness shines! And I can bathe in that rad light and soak up that inspiration, creativity, great work ethic and kindness and I can BE like those people.
I can be a chameleon of awesomeness. And then maybe some other chameleons will think that I am awesome and bathe in my rad butt-light. And if we are all being really kind, and working hard, just imagine the things that will happen!
So if you find me sidling up to you one day soon, please don't be alarmed. I am probably just trying to soak up some of your rad-ness.