You tried to change, didn’t you?

“You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake … You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.” ~Warsan Shire

For some reason, I’m feeling this quote on a really deep level. Every time I read it this new wave of emotion washes over me. I just feel, for some reason, like it really applies to me. (and, apparently, 200k other people on tumblr feel the same way). I don’t know much about Warsan Shire, but her Goodreads page is here. I don’t know if my interpretation is accurate or shared by anyone else. I’m just trying to say what the quote means to me.

The way it’s phrased (“you tried to change, didn’t you?”) sounds, to me, both sympathetic and empathetic. As if the speaker knows exactly what the person they’re addressing is going through, has been through this before, and has come to a place in their life where they can offer wisdom and guidance. The speaker takes the stance of a close friend, or else a parent or other guardian figure, who is helping someone younger or less experienced through a dark time. Speaking less and being less volatile become likened to “softer” and “prettier”—women should be seen and not heard—and the speaker seems to disagree with the synonymy given by our culture to these phrases.

It reminds me so much of what I was starting to go through at the beginning of this school year. There’s plenty of people (most of them just vague acquaintances) who find me annoying and want nothing more than for me to shut up. I should’ve held my head high and my middle finger higher. Instead, I decided (much to my friends’ disagreement) that this year, I would only talk out loud if someone talked to me first. It lasted all of one minute, when I realized I am just literally incapable of keeping my mouth shut. But I think I’m happier for not having changed myself.

The line that really gets me is “less awake.” I can’t entirely explain why. But for me, it rings so true—I wanted (and still want) to be seen as pretty, and soft, and quiet and cute and shy and sweet. I am, in actuality, none of those things. I tried for so long to be those things. But in order to do so, I would have to give away everything I knew, everything I had learned from others, and everything I had taught myself. I would have to fall asleep. And that is just something I’m not able to do.

The line “you can’t make homes out of human beings” didn’t really make sense to me at first; I just really liked the way the words sounded. But after reading the poem in its entirety (on goodreads), I think I understand. It means you can’t force someone to stay with you in a relationship that’s failing, and you shouldn’t have to change yourself just to keep them. You can’t forge a relationship on a false image of yourself—you can’t make a home out of a human being.

And the last line, “Someone should have already told you that”. As girls, we should go through our lives being taught how to respect ourselves and be honest with ourselves. We shouldn’t have to be left to our blunders with no guidance, but far too often there’s nobody there to help us. Someone should have told us that we do not need to be quiet or soft or asleep. Someone should have told us.

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