For the longest time, I was known as the “nice” girl. In my freshman dorm, I was referred to as “nice Molly” (there were two others: drunk Molly and crazy Molly, so I wasn’t complaining exactly) and I was always introduced to or referred to by others as “so sweet.”

Which was fine, I guess, except “nice” gradually became a placeholder for doormat. Boring. Passive. Spineless. Simple. I wanted to be the pretty girl, or the smart girl, or the creative girl, even the weird girl. But no—I was the “nice” girl.

And, also, if we’re being honest—I’m just not that nice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bitch or anything, but I definitely am not one to refrain from judgment, or to defend someone who doesn’t deserve it. I expect a lot out of people, and while I will be happy to drag a dead corpse across a dark alley for a good friend without asking questions first, you have to do some work to get there.

“Nice” seemed like such an innocent, gentle, innocuous word. But my freshman and sophomore years of college I slowly began to see it compromising my identity, my spirit, and my sense of self-worth. I was no longer fiery, or passionate, or excitable, or moody, or bossy. No one had a problem with me and no one ever chastised or vehemently disagreed with me. How could they? I was nice.

I’m not nice, I tried to convince myself, after I was referred to as that yet again by someone who scarcely knew me. I knew what “nice” meant as an identifier. Nice meant you couldn’t fight your own battles, you had nothing to say, you never drew attention to yourself. That couldn’t be me.

Then I began to realize: somehow, it was. That was exactly who I had let myself become here. I hated confrontation. I played the innocent card. I didn’t draw attention to myself. I didn’t take sides. I was at a new school, with new people who all seemed prettier and stronger and more sure of themselves than me, and I was too insecure to even show them even a glimmer of who I was.

Which is a girl who cussed out a group of girls twice as tall as me at the mall in 7th grade for photobombing my photo booth picture. A girl who was appointed play director in 1st grade, but was so bossy that everyone quit. A girl who made her friends act out her movies with professional vigor, who raced varsity ski team with no racing experience, who has come up with more revenge plots against friends’ ex-boyfriends than I care to admit. A girl who loves Avril Lavigne still, at 22, and would rather pregame to musicals than hip hop, and not only is not embarrassed, but actively tries to make others do the same. A girl who has always been largely incapable of holding back her opinions and her values, even when she should.

A girl I’d somehow lost sight of.

In the next few months, a lot of people said I “changed.”

“Wait, she’s so funny! I never knew.”
“I feel like she’s really come into her own.”“She’s so different from who she was a year ago.”

I didn’t change. I just allowed myself to surface, really surface, for the first time. I stopped conforming to the society-taught mold that girls should be sweet and sugary and pure in all of their eye-fluttering helplessness. I relaxed enough to let the frenzied, buoyant, creative, honest, and loyal girl out.

Turns out I’m not so nice after all.