This week I’ve spent some time deliberating over a question I thought I knew the answer to. Who am I?
I know the basic facts – I’m a 30 year-old woman with a husband and two cats. I am a homeowner. I am an atheist. I love classic rock and I hate pretty much all fruit. I am a vegetarian but happy enough to wear leather shoes and take fish oil capsules (needs must).
But isn’t there more to a person than facts? By the time you’re 30 you’ve probably done most of the big, important, adult-type things. You’ve left home, perhaps married and/or had children. Hopefully, you’ve voted. These are things that can surely only be done when you’ve escaped the malestrom of adolescent self-scavation, having uncovered the person you are. And I really thought I had done that.
Evidently, I was wrong. Last week, I asked someone to check something I’d written and give feedback, this someone being someone who knows me (whoever that is) very well. I was pretty happy with what I’d written, which is why I felt comfortable showing it to this person and is why I was taken aback by what they said: that it didn’t SOUND like me. I was confused. I read it, searching for clues…if it didn’t sound like me then who did it sound like?
That was when I realised it did sound different, but because I really did write it in my own voice and this is something people in my life are not accustomed to at all because I spend most of my time around others ‘aping’ other people in an effort to make them like me. When I write I ooze the humour of the female authors I love. When I drink I adopt the filthy humour of Sarah Millican – a technique that has earned, over the years, dozens of comments along the lines of ‘Christ, you’re SO much better when you’re drunk!’. I’ve become a chameleon, redesigning myself each time, pulling on the ‘right me’ when needed.
Except now I just feel like a confused muddle of all these things, and absolutely none of them feels quite right. Am I funny? Well, not really, unless I’ve downed a cocktail or two. Neither am I particularly intellectual (NEVER expect me to do any kind of maths for you). I’m not spontaneous, nor am I fascinatingly individual. If stripped of my chameleon-like nature – something that is undoubtedly the result of being reminded repeatedly how unlikeable I am while I was at school – my current self might best be described as a disinterested shrug, followed by another chocolate biscuit.
This, I feel, is the major problem in my life. If you don’t know who you are, how can you locate your own voice when you write?How do you differentiate your desires from those of others around you? You see, I am a MASTER (mistress?) of getting people to like me when I want them to. I have learned to read people quickly, to work out what they like and don’t like so that I can artfully relate to them in a way they will find likeable. But it also means I get confused about what I want. If I see someone drinking coffee, I’ll start craving it, even though it makes me feel quite poorly. If I watch too many episodes of Frasier, I decide I was to be a psychiatrist. If a friend gets a motorbike, I think I want a scooter – I’m not brave enough to go all the way. If I watch shows like Mad Men, I think I want to be a Copy Writer. And drink a lot.
Simply put, how much of me is really, well, me? And how much is an amalgamation of what I’ve read, what I watch and what I want people to see? Is this a typical issue for our generation, over-exposed in our vulnerable teen years to social media displaying the ‘perfect’ lives of others? Unfortunately, I have no answers, so I’m really sending this out into the inter-ether, hoping that someday, I’ll be able to answer it.
Until next time!