When I was young, they told me I could be anything. So I was someone else.
I used to believe it was impossible to *really* be something that you are not. You can’t fake wit, intelligence, charm, motivation. I mean, I suppose you can try — study what those things look like, and then emulate them. But it doesn’t really work. We probably all know someone who *seems* really nice, but you walk away with a weird taste in your mouth, like a spoonful of sour cream when you’re expecting vanilla yogurt.
In those days, though, I thought the Self was the way your mind worked, your personality. I never considered myself a very emotional person. I had emotions, but I mostly bludgeoned them with my thoughts until they ran whimpering into a dark corner. I believed I was — and wanted desperately to be — a logical, rationally-driven creature. Emotions were messy and refused to fit into the neat little boxes I’d labeled “What Krista Is.” So I rejected them, rationalized them, and, when all else failed, shoved them into another box labeled “Anomalies” and forgot about them.
The problem with that, I eventually came to find, is that it was like amputating my torso. Oh, I’d done a terrific job reconnecting the neural pathways from my brain to my limbs afterward, and I could make myself dance like a world-class marionette. In fact, I had to. My performances were vital to my survival (said my brain). Because when you remove the heart from something, what does it become other than a series of mechanical, empty performances?? And what’s left to be loved other than what you do, how well you perform?
I was so afraid that if I stopped dancing, I would effectively not exist; there would be nothing about me to love. It was a powerful, paralyzing fear that ate my life for years.
This is the place where I was going to write that you probably wouldn’t know my life was consumed by fear for years, if you were looking from the outside, and cite all of my success as proof. Trying to write that didn’t work out as expected. I dropped out of college at 19, ultimately because it challenged my view of myself as a world-class “performer.” I’ve collected two failed marriages, in no small part because I married men who in one way or another propped up my torso-less perfection dance. I did manage to get a good job, despite not having a degree, because I’d gotten really good at that perfectionism thing. I started school again about three years ago, and I’ve been collecting achievements left and right.
But…the happiness felt from an achievement is temporary. It’s like a drug, really. I get it, I feel tingly for little awhile, and then I just want more. Wait, maybe it’s more like sex.
In any event, a torso-less Krista is not a happy Krista (which, when phrased that way, sounds like a big “no duh”). The truth is, despite what I always believed, it’s actually really easy to be somebody else. All it takes is not being true to who you are. Who you *really* are. And who you *really* are is how you feel. And feeling how you really feel, for reasons I’ll discuss later, is scary. As. Hell.