08 July 2008

Masks

Sometimes I feel like we all wonder the same thing about who we are and who we want to be and who we want to portray to the world. We complain to our friends and ourselves about how we feel we must always wear a mask, and yet we continue to wear one, not really trying to do anything to be more authentic. But why do we do that? Why do I do that? We are just all so scared to be ourselves, I understand that. But there has to be another reason, right? People overcome their fears all the time, right? What makes this whole “being your true self” seem so impossible?
On my way to work, I put on my sophisticated, grown-up clothes and prepare for a day in the “professional” world where I am charming and outgoing and constantly happy. I compare myself with my peers, wondering if I am fashionable enough, smart enough, competitive enough. I try to be what I think they want me to be.
On my flight home I am slowly reverting to the girl that my family knows; that my church knows; that my town knows. Some things never change. Just like it was when I was eighteen, I am expected to fulfill a role much older than my age. I am counselor and peacemaker within my family. I still have late night conversations with my parents about how to deal with a situation that I have no idea how to deal with. I still try to have some sort of relationship with my brother before he slams the door in my face, turns the TV up to a deafening sound, or simply walks away. I have changed, but going home I realize not as much as I thought. I am struggling to find my place where I was once comfortable, but am now an outsider. In the end, I just revert back to the person I was when they knew me. Unfortunately that is an eighteen year old who is struggling to find herself. Four years later, it does not seem like too far of a stretch. I try to be what I think they want me to be.
I am a vegetarian. I am a woman’s rights advocate. I am an AIDS advocate. I am a Christian. For me? For the image I portray? For who I want people to see? Yes to all of the above. Do I try to live up to the standard set by others for their own lives? I try to live up to my own standards, but where are those coming from? Sometimes I feel like I am made up of the standards and ethics and images of others. I do not trust myself enough to create…myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am who I am because I choose to be. I love being a vegetarian. I am passionate about AIDS and woman’s rights because whenever I think about these issues, I know in my heart and in my mind that this is what God is calling me to. I follow Christ because I know, both emotionally and intellectually, that I could not live if I did not. The question is though, who or what truly shapes the person I am and am becoming? What do I let influence the path that my identity is taking? Do I allow the masks to stay on because I don’t really know the person behind them?

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