First off, anyone who even thought about the Pussycat Dolls song when they read the title should get the f out (but you get an honorary highfive on the way out for trying).
When I was younger, I wanted to be a new thing every week. It was anything from an air hostess to a mountain goat (no, really.)
This topic came up in my mind as I was filling out a section of my UCAS form yesterday. For any of you not hailing from the land of A Levels, UCAS is basically the system through which we apply to university, kind of like a huge directory, if you like.
It sprung to my mind that I was making huge life decisions based on what I think I want now. What if that changes in the next year? What if I decide to make a U-turn and dedicate my life to the conservation of a rare species of potplant? I wouldn’t have the qualifications to do so, and I have therefore shut a series of doors that would take some serious legwork to reopen.
So it occurred to me that I’ve never really wanted to be just one thing. I wanted to be everything, and in that way I’m quite selfish (I’m sure there’s a Simone de Beauvoir quote in there somewhere…)
And I still don’t know.
I’m no closer to knowing who I want to be and what I want to do than when I wanted to be a spy when I was nine, or a koala when I was five.
Obviously now my dreams of transmogrifying into an small, furry animal have been dashed (goddammit!), but even then, decisions with such large ramifications are a daunting prospect.
I don’t like the idea of being confined to one, or even a small selection of things. I want to live an extraordinary life.
Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like I’m talking about fame and fortune and worldwide adoration. I don’t want that kind of burden. All I would ever desire is a life full of small, private freedoms and joys that, if I’m ever-so-lucky, I could share with others.
In an embarrassingly clichéd phrase, I want to live fast and free and wildly and deeply and I’m not sure if the world will let me. There are so many things I want to do (as can be seen on my bucket list) and getting them done seems… unlikely.
In all truth, I don’t like the prospect of growing old. It isn’t about the appearance, about youth or beauty or vanity.
In my mind, I see it almost like an ever-narrowing tunnel of prospects: as you grow older, the prospects become more sparse, you begin to lose options and the ability to choose or go back on your choices. I don’t want to be in the position of no prospects, being a burden to others around me.
Equally, I don’t want to have to fit into the parameters set for me by common expectation: school, A Levels, university, job, marriage, children, retirement, grandchildren, death. Charming, isn’t it?
Because of all this, and I haven’t expressed this anywhere but in my mind before, I can’t see myself living past my thirties. Again, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying I’m about to top myself. I’m saying that I don’t think that kind of life is for me.
I don’t want to live my life preparing. Education as a preparation for a job, a job for a promotion, a promotion for more money, more money to pay for children and a pension, preparing children for life, preparing to retire, retire to prepare for death.
No, fuck that.
That isn’t me.
I’d rather die having lived than fade away having survived.
I sound like a belligerent teenager right now, but I’ve never been more sure about anything.
I wasn’t cut out for ordinary.
So, what do I want to be when I grow up?
Well, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I want to be free.
My version of individuality was a compound of lesser quantities of perfection.
My less ideal version of individuality didn’t add up to inspiration. No one took my words as gospel. No person did seek me out, professing my brilliance. No critics acclaimed. No songs were sung of my legacy, no eulogies rasped through fake tears in cathedrals. No memory of whatever part of me that may have shone through the canopy of the majority and into the spaces of legends. No story to hold on to.
My less desirable version of individuality didn’t amount to love. No hearts were damaged on my behalf, no emotions altered, no heartstrings tugged. No fantasies constructed, my face as the protagonist. Love is a fleeting notion more transient than a breath of airspace already polluted with an abundance of false declarations of love.
My less intelligent version of individuality didn’t amount to a discovery. No theory was named of me; no institute established in my name. No page in a textbook remembering my actions, no momentous phenomena holding the origin of its moniker to my own.
My less tragic version of individuality didn’t conclude in misery. It had no hardship in its yarn, no struggle plagued the continuation of its tapestry. No shocking retelling to be sold to the sadistic masses as ‘entertainment’, no ‘true story’ placard to be brandished at the flyleaves of its tale. No real sadness tore its world to shreds.
My less attractive version of individuality was never a muse to greatness. It never stood apart from a crowd. None singled me out as the one blessed with a golden ratio. I never caught half an eye in my years — never would I have tried. Never was I given the chance of a second glance. The scenery claimed me, and the walls were my refuge where I bloomed and withered, always watching, waiting.
My version of individuality did not supersede any other, neither did it come below. My version was merely a version, separated by degrees from the next.
“Conform!” they said. “Be normal!” they said. What is ‘normal’ if not a method of satiating the human urge to fit in?
I was contented with my version, my edition, my attempt at something exceptional, even if it did appear to fail.
Because, after all:
Imperfection is merely unappreciated individuality.
Knowing someone is a strange concept.
Knowing someone, by definition, is made up of direct interaction on a personal level to the point where you are familiar with them.
But you never really know anyone. All that you know are the things that are made obvious, like names, or occupations, or birthdays, or hobbies, or likes, or dislikes, or physical appearance.
These are fabrications, superficialities. You never get to know what a person is truly made up of; what they are at their core.
Knowing people can also be quite a disappointing experience. The once mysterious, unknown individual that could potentially bring a dramatic divergence in a life’s path turns out to be a regular human being like the rest, with the baggage, the flaws, the backstories.
I think this might be why I find an obscure kind of solace in being in large crowds of strangers. None of them know of my baggage, my flaws, my backstory, and I their’s. All they see is a uniform ocean of humans. It’s this kind of anonymity that I find comforting. A sort of transient freedom from the constraints of everyday that transforms me into a blank canvas to be drawn upon.
Then, in a way, anonymity is an anaesthetic to familiarity: it does not permanently eradicate the memories or the people that know, but it palliates the symptoms briefly; like rubbing a hand over a chalkboard, it blends the outlines, though the words are still present underneath. It blurs the colours for a while.
It makes the world liveable for a while.
When someone asks you, “Who are you?”, how do you reply?
A name? An occupation?
But if that questioner could peel back the layers, the walls, the masks, and peer into your mind/soul/spirit, what would they find? Names and job titles are not branded on your brain, they are constructs created by humans to give themselves parameters for comparison.
So, who are you?
Are you a product of your experience? (This platitudinous phrase perpetually regurgitated by supposed ‘deep thinkers’ seems too clichéd to hold any actual sense of profundity, but the idea is still there.)
Or is a person defined by their actions? However, something I have come to learn is the fact that some individuals who present themselves as selfless are in fact only interested in ameliorating their self-image, and so this cannot be depended on as a measure of character from a third party’s perspective.
The point (to which I have taken an overly loquacious and circuitous route — sorry) is when I, myself, try to reflect my thoughts inward and deliberate on my own psyche, me as a human being, I draw a blank. I consider my experiences, I contemplate my actions, but nothing comes.
Simply put, I don’t know who I am.
Is this a symptom of the fatal condition called being a teenager, or is this something else?
Maybe there’s something wrong with me.
But where’s the joy in being normal, right?
n. the notion that every other being you see has a life as intricate and complex as the next; that there are seven billion stories simultaneously running in parallel, each weaving their own life tapestry that you may one day lend a thread to; that you are the blurred silhouette in the background of someone’s holiday photo, the stranger staring out of a window, just as others are to you.
So, today I’ve been doing some thinking. Thinking about humans, mainly.
I was contemplating how people interact with each other; what they think when their eyes meet another person’s face. What makes you form an opinion about someone? What is it in people’s nature that makes them gravitate towards certain individuals? And what does it mean for someone to ‘love’ another person? This last thing is what I’ve been turning over in my mind today.
Humans emotions are, by nature, fickle. They are changeable, easily influenced and can be molded and manipulated into almost any shape or form desired. So why do people long to be told that someone, anyone, loves them? Is it an intrinsic desire for kinship? Or just the indulgence of the egocentric parts of human minds?
Besides, even if a person says “I love you”, what does it mean? “The correct cocktail of chemicals has been released in my brain, I feel attraction to you, let’s procreate”?
Personally, the notion that two people can be entirely dependent, completely open and utterly at each other’s mercy by option is beyond me. How do you find something that you trust in so implicitly? More importantly, can you? By allowing someone to be so deep-rooted within your mind, so familiar to your skin, so close… It seems insane. It surpasses logic to do so.
The underlying truth of this is probably that being vulnerable terrifies me. But what scares me in equal volumes is that possibility that I may not be capable of that amount of trust. That amount of love.
n. the inexplicable urge to push others away.