Over the past few years, I had thought nothing — or rather no one — could surprise me anymore. In 2016, I learned that most Americans are okay with electing a racist, sexist, xenophobic “pussy-grabbing” asshole. That was the year I discovered not just how many of these folks exist — which wasn’t really a surprise actually — but how many of these people I knew. It was shocking and disappointing at best; traumatic and relationship-ending at worst.
Over the past few years, Americans have become much more comfortable showing their true colors. That racist meme they share. Lashing out with textbook white fragility in comments section. Subtle-but-not-so-subtle comments about “the lesser of two evils” — as if an incompetent narcissist who is hellbent on dividing the country is anywhere in the same realm as experienced candidates with respect and compassion. Shut your mouth with that “lesser of two evils” bullshit.
Not since 2016, however, have I been so shook by so many people. Acquaintances and casual friends who I had thought were reasonable people turned out to be anti-maskers who whine on Facebook about how they can’t visit their vacation home due to coronavirus lockdowns. People I had thought were kind and compassionate dismiss the pain of Black people and complain about the “rioting” and the “thugs.” Folks I know who are generally regarded as “nice people” turn out to be closet Trump supporters.
Fortunately, even though some folks are showing their true colors as racist, selfish assholes, others are also showing just how caring, wise, and open-minded they are. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Facebook friends who are using social media to shut down fake news and share science-backed information on coronavirus safety precautions. Casual friendships have turned into close friendships over shared concerns and priorities.
Because 2020 is the year of true colors, it is also the year I’ve gone full-blown KonMari on my life and the people in it.
This year has been a continual process of choosing who I want to be surrounded by, and the people I want in my life. Quarantines and amped-up anxiety have solidified some friendships, while others have slipped away. I’ve reconnected with old classmates over shared values, even though we may not have been friends all those years ago. I’ve unfriended and unfollowed more people than I can count.
This has been an uncomfortable process, to say the least. I’m a people-pleaser at heart, but I am also outspoken and I refuse to tolerate an ounce of bullshit. You are an anti-masker who claims the pandemic is a hoax manufactured by the Democrats? Buh-bye. You rant about protesters and use the hashtag #alllivesmatter? Excuse me while I click unfriend. You refer to coronavirus as the China virus? Gone.
Let me be very clear: this is not about agreeing on everything or living in an echo chamber. It isn’t about cutting out people who have different opinions than me; it is about intentionally choosing to surround myself with people who have core values who are similar to my own.
I want to surround myself with people who uplift and sustain me. People who inspire and motivate me to be a better person. People who understand that there is room for disagreement of opinions, but only if there is an agreement in values.
Everyone else is a distraction. A distraction that we don’t need in these uncertain, trying, and literally unprecedented times. We are living in the midst of history-making events right now, and we need all the emotional reserves we can muster.
I’d be lying if I said this was easy. It has been anything but. It is painful to be called names by family members. It is shocking to realize that someone you had respected is actually a bigot who voted for Trump and will likely do so again. It is terrifying to realize that so many people can willfully ignore science and facts so that they can continue “living their best life.”
But here’s the thing — I too want to live my best life. And that means doing hard things and making difficult choices and thinking of others. To do that, I need all the support I can get. So I’m weeding out those folks who are showing a side of themselves that is not in line with my own values, so that I can focus on strengthening those relationships where our values are aligned. We might not agree on the specifics of how we’re moving through life right now but we’re generally on the same page and share the same core ideals.
2020 has been a punch in the gut for so many reasons. But as disappointed as I am in so many people (anti-maskers and Trump supporters, I am looking at you), I’m not disappointed that so many people are showing their true colors. Because now it makes it easier to see who people really are.