Sometimes I wonder why we’re always trying to define ourselves. It’s a peculiar brand of vanity, sticking a label to our own puffed-out chests. Journalist. Writer. Girlfriend. Foodie. Hipster. Like we’re all trying to fit into boxes we’ve created to make ourselves feel safe, feel worthy, feel anything at all.
I used to write other people’s names on name tags when I was younger, felt a thrill go up my spine when strangers called me by the names I’d assigned myself. It felt like hiding in plain sight. Like I could be whoever I wanted, as if that wasn’t possible with the me I’d been given at birth. Like we aren’t all handed that opportunity at the beginning of every day. Like we don’t spend all of most days trying to live out a reality we’ve created.
Maybe that’s why I love theater. Being handed a script, a costume, a persona that I get to enact. There are x’s on the floor telling me where to stand, onstage. A piece of paper tells me what to do with my hands.
No one handed out stage directions to real life. There are no cues to miss, so we make up our own and curse our own fabricated realities, when they don’t live up to expectations we set based on some arbitrary idea of achievement.
I don’t know why we think we don’t own our own trajectory. But I do wonder what would happen if we all tried to live outside these imaginary boundaries. If we stopped trying to create a self and just lived the way we wanted. Would we stop comparing ourselves to each other, if there were no guidelines? Would we strive for our personal definition of happiness, instead of trying to fit into a box that doesn’t hold us, that doesn’t leave enough room for the people we are, because we aren’t what we’re desperately trying to create?
I don’t know. But I think we should try, as a culture. As a people. Because it’s tiring, isn’t it, to put on these masks that don’t fit our faces. Let’s go bare to the party, this time. Let’s go as ourselves.