The world is weird and children get the worst of it. Then we grow up and, somehow, the same world that fucked us up expects us to be normal, to be secure and mature and all kinds of other words that we don’t know how to live.
It’s hard to know who you are in a world full of people who are constantly asking you to be something else; to be who they want you to be, to be who they need you to be.
I used to know who I was. When I was a child, I didn’t have a lot of cares. I knew who I was. I knew that I was precocious and restless and had this thing inside of me that made me want to wander and poke into holes in dark places and find new things that would make me wonder and maybe come back, maybe not come back; but I knew who I was, until I turned nine.
Nine is the first memory of concrete sorrow because nine is when I started to lose myself; nine is when I no longer knew who I was. When it was about what the parents wanted for me; there was no question about what I wanted it was just what they wanted and it didn’t even matter if what each one of them wanted for me did not suit what the other wanted; it didn’t matter.
I was just a rope in a tug-of-war. It just did not matter. I didn’t matter. I was just a rope. And it was years of that; years of being lost, years of roaming in my head and having no concrete reason for sorrow. I keep saying that I had no reason for sorrow because I don’t know what it was. All I knew was that I could not be me. I had to be this person who was good at school, who got perfect grades and I didn’t know how to be that person.
I wanted to sit in the Queens College library full of thousands and thousands of books and I just wanted to read them; I wanted to read books and write Italian words and forget them in a week, and read the unabridged version of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. I wanted to roam. I wanted to find new things in the pages of books; I wanted to find new things in my head but I couldn’t be that person no matter how hard I tried to be because I had to be this person who passed Mathematics and who, if she didn’t, got beaten by her mother.
I had to be this person who got compared to her sisters and even to her baby brother because I wasn’t putting in enough effort, I was too restless, my eyes were too wide, I wanted too much yet too little from the world.
Maybe they want what’s best for you but who knows what’s best for you? In the process of doing what’s best for you they erode what makes you you. And coming from that I started to date my first boyfriend at 18 and I had to be someone else; I had to be who he wanted me to be; I had to be quiet, respectful and couth and I didn’t know how to be that, I didn’t know how to be a woman. I didn’t know how to be the woman that they wanted me to be. I didn’t know how to be the woman that the world wanted, that the men wanted. All I used to know was how to be was me. But even that, I no longer knew how to be.
I was this person lost and floundering and trying to please the parents and trying to be good enough for the parents and trying, at the same time, not to lose myself, so that in the end I was a cacophony of confused personalities stuck in one person, stumbling all the time and I turned 20 and another boyfriend and the need to be good enough, to be enough, to be better than who I was, a different version of who I had been expected to be in my last relationship, a different version from whom my parents wanted me to be, a different version from whom my friends wanted me to be, a different version from whom the entire world wanted me to be.
I didn’t even want to be myself because I didn’t know who I was. I just wanted to be enough, to be perfect, to win. And the thing about perfection is it’s a lost cause so no matter what, you’re never quite enough.
And now I’m 25 and I don’t know who I am. I’m 25 and sitting in front of a therapist and weeping my eyes out because I don’t know who I am any more. I don’t know where that girl is. The one who had no sorrow because she had no reason for sorrow. I don’t know what I am besides lost and I’m trying to recapture this thing that I used to love, trying to find the person that I was, knowing that it’s okay to not be perfect, to not have the perfect body or the cutest face. It’s okay and I’m comfortable in my body that is like a boy’s. And I had missed my sneakers and now I can wear my sneakers and my jeans and t-shirts and not need to be sexy, to be better than the other women vying for your attention, not need to be dumber than you because you need to be the most intelligent person in the world.
And I’m mad. I’m angry at myself, I’m angry at the world for expecting so much; not just so much but for expecting different things, for not accepting. And I’m mad at myself for trying for acceptance because in the end the more you change, the more you need to change.
In the end, no one is ever going to be who I want them to be. It’s also up to me to realise that I’m never going to be who everybody wants me to be or who anybody wants me to be and it’s okay to accept who I am and to not try to change it; it’s important to not change who I am.