We’re born as free individuals, free from all the restrictions, prejudices, rules and walls of the society we’re born into. We love, express anger, show sadness and are vulnerable freely, without fear of isolation or rejection. But as we grow, those who were already here before we arrived start teaching us things that they absorbed from their parents or caregivers. They call it “culture,” “the truth” or maybe just “how to live.” So we learn and shape our identities accordingly. Sometimes we doubt whether this is what we really want to learn, but usually we just carry on – because we don’t want to risk our place in this merciless society.
We repress our real selves; we try to fit them into tiny boxes inside our chests that we call our “hearts.” We bury them so deep that sometimes, when we’re about to make an important decision, we hear that weak, faint voice as if from afar, trying to tell us what we really need to do to be more like ourselves. We sometimes learn to listen to that voice again, the way we did when we were little. If not, it gets fainter and fainter, until finally, we lose it.
While all this is happening, society keeps telling us that we need to be ourselves. They say that they embrace differences, various colors, scars and all those other things that are “unusual.” While you’re busy memorizing these lies, they keep making you feel inadequate. They even create a plan for you to be yourself – since you’re not good at this at all. Sorry.
It all starts simply. You go and dye your hair. You wear clothes that they say will make you look more like yourself. You listen to the music they listen to. You fall in love with people who are “in your league.” You become friends with poor souls just like you, trying to find themselves in this mess. You don’t talk about it; but you always feel it.
Then one day, while you’re on the metro or in middle of a meeting, at a random time and place, you look around and suddenly it all comes to you. You become estranged to this person you, and they, created. You realize that maybe you didn’t even notice, or you just didn’t resist; but it happened slowly, and then all at once, there you are as a supporting actor in the middle of your own play. You feel extremely empty and exhausted – like a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, which wastes its energy and time on this one dream of becoming a breathtaking butterfly, but instead emerges only to find that it has creased wings and a weak body. Now it can neither fly, nor keep living as a caterpillar.
You get mad, feel fooled. You stare at people blankly. This wasn’t what they promised. Where’s the happy ending everyone keeps talking about? Who is this person they say is you?
I know. I’ve been there, seen it all. After this realization, you can choose to go on living like this, or try to find the real you. Either way, people find ways to be happy. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. But some believe that they are sent here to find their true selves, instead of just to live a happy life. At least at this point, it seems like we have a choice.
No matter which path you choose to walk, you need to remember that everyone is living only for him/herself. We can’t change much in this world, but we can always change ourselves. Loving the “wrong” person is okay, as okay as loving the “right” one. Feeling lost and being afraid is okay. Making mistakes is okay. Asking questions and not being able to answer them is okay. Spending time on your own instead of being with people is okay. Saying “no” is okay. Resting and recharging is okay. Taking your time to undertstand your needs and wants is okay.
And in the end, though I’m not sure how, we’ll be playing our roles in the best way we can. We’re going to figure out that even when it looked as if we had control over our lives, we couldn’t change much – because most things were decided long before this. Call it fate, call it God, or anything else; but I believe those who say that they changed their fate were prepared to do so by a series of events.
When I realized this, I decided to trust what life brings, enjoy the moment and, instead of constantly trying to be myself, just listen to what my heart tells me. With time, that faint, weak voice became clear and strong, and it became much more easier to make decisions, since my choices didn’t feel wrong anymore.
Just know that we’re all in this together, dear reader. I wish you the strength you’re going to need on this journey; and let me say once again, listen to your heart. It knows what to do.