What would you see if I showed you the real me? A tired broken girl with so little hope left? The fierce, protective, loving friend who will go to all lengths to see you happy? The exhausted student, the hard worker, the carefree girl, the gleeful grin? The fearful child still cowering in the corner while machines tick away the moments we have left together? Or the defensive woman waiting for you, too, to leave?
What would you see if I showed you who I was? Which facet should I show you first? Which piece of me should I expose for your viewing pleasure?
You asked me to explain, if only it were so simple. Put into words the thing that has evaded me, the thing that has caused me no end of despair, of fear and hurt and loneliness. The thing that has created this wall around me, this barrier. This isolation. You see I can’t explain. I can’t put into words, maybe if I could, I would be able to be rid of it at last, to slough it off like dead skin, cast it away, an old frumpy sweater I’ll never wear again. But it’s not so easy. Not for me. Because this thing I fear, this “insecurity,” isn’t just the space between you and me. It is the space between me and everyone, the space that can’t be crossed. It is the arm’s distance between me and the world. This uncrossable no-mans-land created by a thousand broken childhood dreams and promises. “I promise we’ll go tomorrow.” “Promise we’ll make it right.” “She’ll be okay, I promise. You’ll see.” “Things will be right again soon.” “Just wait. Everything will be okay.”
“Someday.” Famous last words.
But it isn’t just the space. It isn’t just the distance. It’s the reason the space exists. For years I have hidden behind the various personas and personalities that I show to the world, the multifaceted me. The kaleidoscope of faces, of characters that I wear and create. For years I have kept myself at an arms distance from the world. Even from those I desire to be closest to. I yearn for a closeness, a sense of belonging, but despite my struggle to earn it, my constant search for it, I come up empty, time and time again, and the space around me grows wider as a defense mechanism triggers and I push the world away again. And I put on more faces to cover the hurt and the distrust. I shy away from the smirks and glances I fear are directed at me, the whispers I hear behind hands seemingly everywhere I turn. She’s too strange, too childish, too outspoken, too apathetic, too spontaneous, too weird, too sad. Too broken.
So I stop, I step back and open the space. I chose my face. This is the me I will show you. This is the mask I’ll wear every time I see you, so you won’t know that deep beneath the mascara and smiles and skin and muscle and bone there is flesh, tender, soft, waiting to be shown to the world, but still too afraid to show itself. I live my life drawn back from the world, at a constant distance, desperate to cross the no-mans-land between us, but still too afraid.
I fear and I hide, I struggle, I bury the real me so deep down that I have trouble finding it sometimes, so that being the real me is almost as impossible as showing it to the world. It is so hidden, so blocked from the world, that I no longer know if there is anyone who remembers it anymore, anyone who has seen it, or held it in their hands and felt the slight flutter of my heart in their palm.
But I am not my isolation. I am not the space I put between myself and others, or the space put there by others. I am more than that. I am a grin and a laugh and a shy crooked smile. I am my blush and my sigh and my smirk. I am my not my sarcasm. I am my wit and my mind. I am the words I write, the characters I create, the voice I use when no one can hear me speaking. I am not my stage fright. I am my strong clear voice and the confidence I exude when I think I am alone, away from judging eyes. I am not my defense, the harsh way that I respond when something is said that makes me uncomfortable, or when the words strike too close to home. I am not my withdrawal, the way I retreat into myself in public places. I am not my inability to make eye contact. I am not my fear of rejection, or betrayal. I am not the barrier I build to keep out the world. I am not my isolation.