I wanted so desperately to become someone other than who I had been that I lost myself entirely in the search…
It occurred to me about halfway through my senior year of high school and was one of the key factors that allowed me to keep my sanity for the final stretch to graduation. Not only would I be free of my home town and the people there, the bad memories and the tormentors, but I would be free to reinvent myself however I wanted when I stepped onto my college campus. Nobody would know me. Nobody would know the rumors that had swirled around me in high school. Nobody would know if I was acting out of character…
I could be whoever I wanted to be and it would seem normal to the new people around me.
The process started at orientation, where I forced myself to be confident bordering on arrogant with a trumped up esteem that I was sure seemed genuine though I knew how false it felt. I wasn’t shy. I wasn’t quiet. I voiced my opinions and engaged in vibrant conversations. I openly asked for phone numbers and email addresses for the people I connected with.
And then I went home to wait out the remaining long weeks before I could return to school and return to this journey of becoming someone new.
I was nervous that I would be discovered as a fraud but those worries were unnecessary. I returned to campus and seamlessly picked up where I had left off. Engaging others rather than being shy and reclusive. Trying new things rather than sticking to the safety of the hobbies I’d had at home. However, at the same time, parts of my true self started to fade away. I began hiding the parts of me I thought others wouldn’t like. I did things, calculated choices and risks, to keep my popularity high.
I had never been popular before and I didn’t want that feeling to stop.
Then my roommate, a very charismatic and gregarious personality, started sharing stories of the fun he was having at raves. I grew up on classic rock but hadn’t yet found something to go with this new identity I had created, and so I thought I could give this electronic music stuff a chance and see what it was all about. Oh, and there were drugs there too. I’d been too timid to try anything while living under my parents’ rule to try anything like that at home.
I tagged along to the next party he went to and the adventure of becoming someone new spiraled into a new direction.
It was fun. It was a lot of fun. While chaotic at times, the years that followed were the antithesis of my high school years. I enjoyed myself. I had friends. I wasn’t bullied or made fun of. I partied. I had less stress and anxiety. I spoke my mind, though more and more what I spoke wasn’t really my mind but what I thought people wanted to hear as the person I was supposed to be slowly disappeared. My fake identity was washing away my hidden truths.
Until, one day after college, I was forced to really look at who I had become and I no longer recognized the reflection, I didn’t like what I saw, and a new quest began to figure out who I was, rather than who I thought people wanted me to be.