protean.

[proh-tee-uh n, proh-tee-]

adjective

  1. readily assuming different forms or characters; extremely variable.
  2. changeable in shape or form, as an amoeba.
  3. (of an actor or actress) versatile; able to play many kinds of roles.
  4. (initial capital letter) of, relating to, or suggestive of Proteus.

What a word! There’s something so refreshing about starting over in a new place and having the freedom to really be who you want to be. There are so many introductions, and you can decide what you want to be known for. I could’ve said, “Hi, I’m Beth, I’m a professional tree climber.” Or “Beth here, hula hoop champ of 1992.” I’ve been sticking with normal things, being from Florida, loving these mountains, seeking adventure.

You really have to stick to it; you can’t be protean with every person you meet. You have one chance while people are figuring out who you are and what you are about. It’s tough because being a protean being is too easy and it comes naturally. Some co-workers have made comments that made my stomach churn and instead of proteanly agreeing, I had to shake my head and say, “Nah.” This is hard for me, because I’ve been a people pleaser for years. I like when people think I’m not lame, of course. But as they say, when you get a little bit older, you stop feeling that need so intensely.

When someone is talking about others negatively, it’s frustrating how easy it is to join in. If we want to be liked by kind people, we must not be protean in this way. I’m learning to not share a negative story, even if it’s a good one and people will laugh. While I am writing this book about making friends after your twenties, this is the common denominator in each person I feel like I can’t trust.  If they are negatively talking about others, I know they will talk about me. I get this feeling that they are looking for things that I do to make fun of (they’re easy to find if you’re looking for them!) and it’s a crummy feeling.

The people who have impressed me and who I want to keep in touch with have told me about others who have inspired them and cared for them. They speak of beauty and positivity and love. They’re so kind. After time with them, I feel better about life and humanity in general. I hope my protean tendencies come out when I’m with them. There are several of these folks at the saloon. Just last night, I was sitting at the bar and a server came up and said, “Beth, just wanted you to know if you want to see town or go on a hike, please let me know! I also have guest passes to the gym. And I live right by the coffee house so just stop by if you want!”

So lovely.

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