I can’t pretend to be her any longer


I wake up in the morning and prepare myself for all the different “me’s” I will need throughout the day. I set my anxieties aside–no one needs to see those–and put on my faces. And no matter how much I wish I didn’t need them, I don’t think I could survive without them. I use them so often I might as well never take them off. In fact, if I do, I’m worried about what I might discover underneath.

It’s easier to keep reapplying masks than to deal with what I’m hiding below them.

To my parents, I am the loving and caring person that they can always rely on. Someone they can trust. I am used as a stronghold–told everything about my parents’ days went and all the annoying, inconvenient interactions they had. I am someone they are proud of and someone who they think has a bright future ahead, but this isn’t me.

To my younger siblings, I am the caregiver. I take charge and let them know they are loved. I want to be someone they can look up to and someone they aspire to be. I try to leave a good impression while I still can, for they will not be young forever, nor will I be able to leave permanent imprints on them once I leave the house. And yet, no matter how much I want to inspire them to be whoever they want to be, this is still not me.

To my friends, I am the positive, cherry, bright-eyed girl. I am always the first to make light-hearted jokes or try to bring smiles to the group. I sacrifice myself for the benefits of others, and it’s something I love to do. I am the encourager, the one who always has something kind to say. I support, care for others, and place them above myself, and yet, this is still not me.

To my teachers, I am hardworking and dedicated. I am reliable and someone who strives to be the best they can be. I allocate time and energy to their tasks and try to never turn anything in that I am not proud of. I am the student who is focused and kind to others, and yet, this is still not me.

Everything I show and everything I pretend to be isn’t who I am. Every morning I wake up and push down the anxiety that creeps up inside of me, lurking in my shadows behind my masks as if it is a predator. It tells me that no one could appreciate who I am as I am, so I pretend. I fight it off until the day is over–which is just about as long as I can. Because as soon as my door closes, it escapes and encapsulates me once more.

I show what people want to see and who people want me to be. But if this is who I pretend to be, am I these fabrications of a person or just a pretender? How can I ever teach my siblings to grow up to become whoever they want to be when I myself am not that at all? How can I give myself up, time and time again, for the benefits of others when I don’t have anything to give to myself? How can I be the student, the daughter, the sister, and the friend if I’m not even sure who I am?

I’ve pretended to be all these things for so long I thought this was who I was; someone who would only ever be as much as what other people viewed her as. Nothing more, nothing less. How could I be? I became what others wanted and what they needed. Yet at the end of the day, when the predators could be shoved down no longer, and I am too tired to be farcical any longer. I myself am not even what I need or who I want.

I lived this out for three years; constantly pretending, constantly putting up barricades and stretching myself like saran wrap around the inevitable. But as everyone knows, saran wrap only covers what’s underneath but leaves everything on display.

I didn’t like this superficial me. I didn’t know myself or even want to. I couldn’t find a reason to enjoy my own company because, at the end of the day, I knew who I was. I knew the monsters that lay beneath the saran, and I knew they weren’t worth getting to know. How could I show this loneliness? This grief? This despair? I couldn’t. I needed to want myself before others ever could.

It was finally time to deal with what I’ve been covering and disguising for so long.

It took me until now to finally realize that I am all of these things but so much more. Yes, I am the caregiver and emotional support, but I am intricate and leveled and expressive and curious and serious and so much more. There is no surface level; I am made up of thousands of planets inside a universe, infinitely vast and never ceasing to expand. I don’t have to pretend to be something different to everyone; I’d rather just be myself for everyone. Myself is enough, and I haven’t realized until now.

So, I set out to uncover everything, layer by layer. The surface and the depths. Everything was unpacked, picked through, and dealt with. Spring cleaning, if you will. I didn’t change myself but rather found myself. And she wasn’t anywhere special; I didn’t have to go anywhere to find her. She was right here all along, waiting to be discovered.

I am all of these things and more. The surface level was washed away and as the tide receded, it revealed all the wonders the water held beneath it. A never-ending ocean, an ever-growing universe.

Pretending is a thing of the past, and now, I don’t have to pretend I believe that.