I’m lost among the many versions of me, unsure of who I am. I’ve always been a chameleon of sorts. I’ve adopted and adapted and changed over the various settings of my life. I’ve been a student, a teacher, a player, a coach, a dealer, an addict, a raver, a dj, a worker, a leach, a father, a husband, a fraud, a thief, a criminal, a deviant, an egghead, a nerd, a braniac, a collector, an aper, a jock, a dungeon master, a magician, an asshole, a saint, a hero, a villain, a friend, a lover, a brother, a son, a loner, a jester, a writer, a storyteller, a victim, an abuser…
I steal my words from those around me. I collect their sayings and expressions. I mimic their mannerisms. I incorporate my view of them into how I act around them. I pepper my language with quotes from movies and songs. I’m not authentic. I’m not original.
I think there was a time, before school started, when I was truly just me, as I am supposed to be. But then responsibilities and expectations began to twist things around. The world requires you to conform to certain molds or it will define you as an outcast and troublemaker. Your parents need you to behave a certain way to make their lives easier and to see you heading down a familiar path, a comfortable path. Who I was slipped into hiding as I donned new personas to fit each of the roles I was tasked with: the faithful friend, the dutiful son, the diligent student.
Each passing year brought new settings that I had to adjust to, and I slipped further away.
I hated my life in junior high. I was picked on and bullied until I learned to hide further within myself. By the time high school started I had nearly perfected the practice of switching between the personas. I could mingle with all of the main cliques. I knew what to say, how to act. I could laugh at one group of friends, while hanging with another. It didn’t even feel wrong at the time because it was all about self-preservation. I was doing what I thought everyone else was doing in order to survive.
In college I saw my opportunity to start over. I was free of all the expectations of the friends I’d had in school, of those teachers, of my parents and our family home. I shed myself of all the false masks, but I didn’t go looking for who I was supposed to be. Instead, I created something that I had always wanted to be. I was confident and arrogant. I took what I wanted. I didn’t ask for permission. I hurt people. I was two-faced, silver tongued, and backstabbing.
I’m not that person anymore. I’m not any of the people I’ve been over the years. I am some combination of all of them… but, still lost. How can I balance who I’m supposed to be with who I truly am? How do I even know the authentic me anymore? I’m lost somewhere in the mire of the terrible choices I’ve made and the influence of others.
The exertion of constantly switching who I am has left me drained.
Who am I?
One person for my parents. One person for my brother. One person for my wife and child. One person in my writing voice. One person at work. One person with strangers. One person. One person. One person. And nobody at all.