“If you really could be another person, you would. But you can’t. You are you. So you have to be you.”
She said these words to me as I spread out all the parts of my heart before her. She was helping me dig through the piles of uncertainty and fear that had collected. It is always a vulnerable place to be in, where you open the door and let someone else see the naked hollows that live inside of you, your heart lying there with nothing to hide behind.
But it is a good place, a very good place.
Her words were like fire. They rushed in and made things gush out – volcanos of fear and doubt scurrying together and falling away.
It was the words. These words. I thought they were the saddest truest words ever spoken.
The veracity of them jolted me out of my fixation on trying to replicate other people’s lives. People I admire who appear to be showing up in the world more courageously than I ever could.
The sadness I felt as the words sank deeper into my bones and spread their salve to every part of my body was not just for me but for all of us. Us, people, mankind. If we truly had a choice ninety percent of us would probably choose to be someone else, “a collection of personality traits selected from an endless automat of characters”. I get disturbed just thinking about it.
I have spent the last few months eating, sleeping and living in other people’s tents. I have rummaged through their stuff and their being trying to find that thing that makes them wield so much influence. I entered their bodies and imagined their sensations. The whole thing left me feeling depleted.
So then I spent the following months looking for methods of owning oneself. I took out all my guidebooks and compasses, papers and scraps of places I had been strewn all over the floor. I unpacked myself and looked underneath, above, inbetween and in all corners but my hands kept grasping air. It was elusive – this magical knowing of how one can fill out herself completely.
I thought it would be a big revelation that would arrive gallantly at my doorstep. I imagined it would announce itself and then proceed to enter me, almost like it was stepping into a pair of soft, comfortable house slippers. Instant possession.
It was none of these things.
It arrived quietly. So quietly I wondered if it really was. Could it be this simple? Could it be that the answer to the question of inner peace and doing work that is mesmerising is choosing to be yourself?
The world is a hard place to be you. I hear you. It is a hard place to be me too. Somehow we are born into a world that claims to value uniqueness but in practice wants us to be like everyone else. So we spend time watching how delicate others are; how long and sexy their legs are and what they wear on their sleeves. And we try to replicate their lives. Here a little, there a little. The project ends in misery because it was never meant to be in the first place.
By then the war within us would have already began. And it lasts forever. Or until the day we wake up to the evident truth; that you and I are unique for a reason. And it is an exquisite reason – we are to find pleasure and delight in each other’s individuality, as well as our own. Delight doesn’t live in allotment houses where worth is measured out in teaspoons and cups. In its most raw and true state delight is immune to these careless renditions of value.
We breathe so much energy into competing and comparing that delight feels soiled. She huddles in a corner and dies. She is a delicate thing, delight. Like porcelain dolls she thrives on intentional care and attention. She is all about seeing the pulse in each person, whether it be faint or arresting.
We were made to fall in delight with each other. I am convinced. And this steers us away from the path of wanting to be someone else. It has everything to do with being ourselves. It grows from there and steeps its roots into the very core of who we are, holding it resolute.
Being you is a big deal. You cannot be another person. And because that will never, ever happen the best and most beautiful thing you can do is to just be you.
This is the simple revelation that came to knock on my door. And I welcomed it in with open arms. It wants to infiltrate everything I own. And I say to it my body is yours.
I have wasted so much time already trying to be another person. I have to stop. You have to stop. We have to stop. Right now. Immediately.
* photo courtesy of Jo Chin. Check out her awesome work here*