Last week I had a rough week. It was a combination of having a lot to get done, worrying about getting all of it done, worrying about the future, barely sleeping at all, feeling lonesome, and probably not running enough. (There is a high correlation between my mood and my running, or lack thereof.) Whenever I have a bad day, I usually shrug it off and try not to make it two bad days or more. But alas, ever so often, it happens. And it is during these days or weeks that are difficult, that I realize how much of a performance living can be.
There is an expectation that we have of others, with regard to how they are and how they should be. To those who are familiar with me, I am often happy and laughing and friendly, albeit while also being deep-thinking and sometimes lost in my thoughts. But sometimes I’m angry, I am frustrated; I am filled with venomous passions. And I have had to learn to temper those passions, to seclude myself, in order to not speak or act out of anger because I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to put on a performance of being happy and laughing and friendly when deep inside, in the moment, I am not.
And if you stray away from this expectation of whom you are who you should be, people around you become uncomfortable. There is an inability to deal with the inconsistency of you being something other than what they are used to you being. You might even get the comment, “You’re not your usual self.” And maybe it’s within someone’s right to perceive you as not being consistent with whom you’ve presented yourself as being. But maybe more than that, it’s within your right to be something other than your expectations, even if it’s only for a moment. What is a usual self? Because when I’m angry and irritated, I feel like myself, it’s a part of who I am; it’s just a part that more often than not, I like to keep to myself.
I think that many parts of life are a performance. The well-known Shakespeare line in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players,” is something that doesn’t ring truer than when you try to deviate from the role that you’ve presented to others. But I can’t help but feel that these roles and parts that we assign ourselves keep us from being human and seeing others as human: Humans who are intertwined between their blessings and challenges, and their fortunes and trials. Humans who are happy but sad, exhilarated but exhausted, and grateful but just might want to scream and yell and be angry because in the moment, they are.
Being human means being complex, it means being consumed by a million and one thoughts at any given moment. It means trying to survive and thrive and create a self that you’re happy with. But that self is complicated, that self isn’t perfect and it never will be. And rather than expecting people to always live up to who we think they are, maybe we can accept that people are allowed to be complicated and to be inconsistent and to live, rather than to always perform. Maybe just maybe, we can allow each other to simply be human.