It began when I was small.
My first out-of-body experiences happened very much within my body, while I stared at my little hand.
I would hold it out in front of me until the background focus shifted away from my awareness and the colors somehow morphed in that odd and unexplainable way they do and I did my best not to blink because the more I could focus the higher I could get on this very idea that my name was Brianna.
This hand belongs to this body, and this body belongs to this name, and this name is this collection of audible sounds.
I spent a lot of time convincing myself I was who I was when I was a kid. I knew I was weird, that much was apparent from what I gathered from how other kids treated me, but what I didn’t know was that I wasn’t “weird,” I was smart. I was aware without ever having been probed to be aware and I am not afraid or ashamed or worried about the consequences of admitting that I think I was smart for this when I was a kid.
It was my first shrieking moment of clarity.
There are so many tortured things in a life. Anybody who has been through anything will have the depth of experience and grace of empathy to prove it. They’ll know that there are few things more baffling and trying than the complete mental disconnect from who you think you are.
It’s so essential, and yet it’s always elusive. This grand idea of what we are, and therefore what we’re supposed to be. It maps a future, settles a present, rationalizes a past. It ties the duality of what we have and what we want together by presenting feasible, drawn lines between here and there, you and who you should be.
We’ve all but made “finding yourself” a necessity, a standard of human mental stability, when its very foundation is nothing but illusion (or, perhaps, delusion.)
I spent my whole life defining and redefining who I was and who I should be. I augmented and edited that character I created based on who I was speaking with, or behaving around. Aspects and details of what I really thought and felt were omitted or added based on what would be acceptable to the present party.
Even the moments in my life in which I thought I most knew who I was were merely constructs of ideas that would fail me. They would shift as I did. The interests that were rooted in circumstance would change as schools did, friends did, my psychological capacity did. The labels and terms and judgments passed from essential strangers I called friends (they were only ever friends with the shell of a person) redefined what I needed to call myself and show myself as — to justify their words as truth, to prove them incorrect.
I was consistently at the whim of another person’s circumstance, I allowed the projections other people’s experiences put onto me to become my reality.
By some miracle, I was saved when I was almost wholly, entirely gone. Because I had taken no stock, or even acknowledgement, in the awareness that was the core of my every day and feeling and thought and belief, I had rendered it absolutely worthless. After trying to morph the mental constructs that suited other people as they ultimately disapproved and disliked and judged me, I ended up only with broken pieces of a half of a person who was never really whole to begin with.
Giving up saved my life. (I do not use that phrase lightly, or in jest.) Surrendering was what I had to do all along.
I realized that there was no idea that could comfort me, no belief that would change a circumstance. There was no logic that could reason me out of my discomfort, nor was there a person I could pretend to be that would ever really take me out of the person I was.
There was only the steady current of awareness, of which I ignored because I was distracted. (Or more accurately, because nobody taught me how to be aware of awareness.)
Like anything, who you are is built in tiny fractions of seconds. It grows as you do, because it was only ever awareness to begin with. It is the culmination of every choice, of every experience that resulted from that choice, and every judgement and idea that followed. It was nowhere. It was everywhere. It was nothing I could grasp but everything I could imagine.
From realizing this, I was gutted, and from that, I pieced the rest together.
The essence of you may be undefinable, but that does not mean it’s not unique. Unspoken words do not stop referring to a concept or a physical item. You cannot lose control by mentally renouncing your train of thought.
If nothing else in my life, I was always aware of my suffering, and I was always trying to dig my way out of it. Of course, I was digging in the wrong direction, (but still.) There would be no guiding light that would come to me and say “go be a writer,” but of course, the day would come that it would happen and everything I had learned would start pouring out and all of a sudden, lined up like sentences, laced together like ideas, placed beside one another like concepts, I realized it was never about what I was or wasn’t or should or shouldn’t be.
I found myself when I stared at my hand and thought, “this is Brianna.” That was all I ever needed to know. Not for the sake of understanding myself, but because I would return to it one day, when it was time for my small refraction of our greater, collective light to reflect awareness onto that very idea.