Sometimes I need to remind myself of who I am, or at least, of whom I want to be. Sometimes I need to remind myself to actually be myself.
It’s weird. I’ve always felt so solid in my identity, a rock in the ebb and flow of euphoria and misery, order and chaos- the hysteria that is human existence. I have always been Harriet. I like ironic t-shirts and unintended puns, I like people and the world and the way the sky smells in the summer time. I fall asleep in the foetal position every night and I wake up with my legs tangled together in a mess of duvet and bliss every morning. I like going out and dancing on tables and telling too many people that I love them too often. I used to sing in class.
On my own, my identity has never been a problem.
But then I meet someone and I forget to ask myself if I like them, instead of “do they like me?”
I’ll find out their values and their morals and how they like their eggs in the morning, I’ll add their favourite songs to my iTunes playlist and listen to them more than I should, regardless of whether they’re good or not. I’ll read books they might be impressed with, or go on diet regimes they might appreciate, or make sure I stop doing anything that might particularly annoy them.
I spend days, weeks, months in a state of attempted perfection; don’t eat too fast, pretend to be cynical, read Edgar Allen Poe, don’t drink too much, don’t swear too much, don’t breathe too much.
I’ll meet someone and I’ll forget to smell the sky and to write and to take my human encounters with a shot of enthusiasm instead of scathing criticism, because they hate people and therefore I must too, right?
And every night I’ll come home and I’ll feel empty and cheated and confused- because I can’t separate myself from the person I am and the person I think they want me to be.
There are a handful of people in my life who I never change for. They’ve seen me shove a hamburger in my mouth without breathing, they’ve taught me how to play pool and how to be selfless and how to love unconditionally. And every night when I come home from emptiness and failed perfection they’ll squeeze themselves into the same chair as me, wrap me up and say
“Stop making yourself so small- you are so wonderful and smart and beautiful, and if you ever try to be somebody you can’t be I will remind you of the girl who wishes on clocks and kisses everybody on the forehead. You were raised by wolves- you will spit out anybody who destroys the people you love, yet you won’t get rid of the voice inside you saying you’ll never be good enough.”
So I’ll start breathing again, I’ll sit on library floors and read anthologies, I’ll take my coffee with extra cream and two sugars, I’ll start to love people again because that’s the person I want to be. I’ll remind myself that I’d rather be alone than a diminutive of myself.
Because like Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. I was born into a world of sunlight and summer skies, I refuse to be anything less than what I am.
I am not a shadow of someone else’s ideals, I am my own.