Confessions of an Ex-Wannabe: On Self-Love, Self-Loathing, and Gavin DeGraw

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Every so often, around this time of year, I remember Gavin DeGraw's breakout single "I Don't Want to Be." I was only nine years old when the song came out seventeen(!) years ago, and though since then I have listened to it more times than I can count, it is only today I feel I truly understand what he is singing.


This is because, Once Upon A Time (until just a few days ago, really), I was a wannabe.


There. I said it!


I, Maegan Alexandra Spirit Cadet, was a wannabe.

And what did I want to be? Anything really, or rather anyone other than the imperfect and unworthy me I perceived myself to be.


You see, I grew up believing it was my job to be perfect—to never make mistakes and to never be anything but the best. Yet because I was constantly reminded by those around me I was too quiet, too unkempt, and much too overweight to be the best, I figured out from an early age I stood a fat chance at reaching anyone’s idea of perfection. The next best thing, I decided, was to be a chameleon--to carefully observe my surroundings and blend into them seamlessly, never ruffling any feathers or inviting the heap of criticism my difference seemed to draw.


"If you can’t beat them," I reasoned, "blend in."

So I shifted; I blended; I broke.


I squeezed the interesting parts of myself into a box and hid that box so deep into my subconscious it would take years to find again.


I based my personality around longing and lack--on longing to be this person or feeling ashamed because I lacked that. That hair, those flats, that thing that was perpetually out of reach.


I have since grown tired of reaching. Because while I thought what I wanted most was to be anything other than me, I’ve finally realized that being me was all I ever wanted. I wanted the freedom to simply exist--without having to say the right thing or please the right people. I wanted the freedom to fall and to recover; to fail and try again. I wanted the freedom to live.


But because I was raised believing everything that made me me--chiefly my blackness and my black womanhood--took away that freedom, I believed the problem to be, well, me. (You try telling a ten year old in 2003 that race is a social construct whose meaning should be chiefly ignored-- *insert blank stare*).


So I became a wannabe--wanna be like Taylor with the "good" hair; wannabe like Lucy who was skinny and on top of fashion trends; wanna be like Ingrid and Ellen, so perfect, so free--not me.


And this is where "I Don't Want to Be" comes in.


"I Don't Want to Be" is the antithesis to all the early conditioning that taught me to not only try to be things outside of myself, but to want to be them as well; to abandon who I truly am by believing who I am is not enough.


It is an affirmation of all that I have realized, and all I aim to remember:


I am enough.


I have always been enough, and as long as I am breathing and living and trying, that will be enough.


And now when I sing along to Gavin's song, the words powerfully affirm this truth:


I don't wanna be anything

other than what I've been

tryna be lately.


All I have to do

is think of me,

and I have peace of mind.


I'm tired of looking

'round rooms wondering what I gotta do,

and who I'm supposed to be.

I don't wanna be anything other than me.


And that's the key, I've discovered: wanting.


You have to want to be yourself in order to fully be yourself; in order to fully heal yourself; in order to fully love yourself.


And how many of us spend our lives never truly loving ourselves?


Think about it: have you ever truly loved something you never really wanted? Something you kept at an arms length and put an "ew-ie" smell kind of stank face on whenever you thought about it? That's not love; that's tolerance at best.


It's mighty hard to love something you don't want. And so many of us are conditioned out of wanting ourselves. We're taught our quirks are undesirable, and we strip our inherent self-desire away from ourselves. We stop wanting ourselves. Then, as a result, we stop loving ourselves.


It's time we stop looking at others for cues and clues on what we're supposed to do and who we're supposed to be. It's time we stop trying to be anything; it's time we just be.


Now, if this message rocks with you, then join me in affirming these words that Gavin has so wonderfully gifted us--ready? On the count of three:


I don't wanna be anything

other than what I've been

tryna be lately.


All I have to do

is think of me,

and I have peace of mind.


I'm tired of looking

'round rooms wondering what I gotta do,

and who I'm supposed to be.

I don't wanna be anything other than me.


Accept this as your truth, even if it doesn't feel very true at first. Eventually, it will.


Trust me, I know: I used to be a wannabe.


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