Before coming to Penn, I could have definitely seen myself in Rebecca Alifimoff’s shoes; I was definitely not the type of person people would consider “chill.” My high school friends would characterize me as competitive, hyper-organized, and a serial planner.
It came to my surprise when several freshmen living in my hall referred to me as “chill” and “one of the boys.” I took this as a compliment because, like Alifimoff, I wanted to be able to take things in stride, particularly knowing that Penn can be an intense environment. I thought it would be cool if I could adopt a new, more relaxed persona for my first year in college. People — myself included — tend to idealize “chill” personalities.
It wasn’t until the concept of being “chill” in romantic relationships came up in a discussion at a Penn Association for Gender Equity weekly meeting that I processed my desire and unconscious effort to be considered “chill.”
In relationships, chill can be synonymous with not caring or being indifferent. The PAGE constituents came to the conclusion that in real relationships, “chill” does not exist. If I really cared about someone and had a deep emotional connection with them, why would I feel the need to appear as if I didn’t care?
The truth is that it’s all about power dynamics; whether we want to admit it or not, it’s not cool to be the one in the relationship that is more invested than the other person. Everyone wants to have, for lack of a better expression, the upper hand. For some people, it’s also a form of emotional self-preservation.
Ever since the discussion with PAGE, I can see that my “chill” appearance is a result of being the exact opposite of chill. Like many Penn students, being in control is comforting for me. I was able to decide how people would perceive me and control the dynamics of my relationships.
Essentially, I agree with Alifimoff — chill is overrated and doesn’t exist in real relationships. The same friends who described me as “one of the boys” now know my true neurotic and controlling personality. Thankfully, I can still channel my inner “chill” by laughing at the fact that I am the antithesis of chill.
LEILA ASHTARYEH is a Wharton freshman from Toronto.
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