I was sitting across from this blonde girl on the subway. Her haircut was all split ends and sharp and she held a viola case at her side and it occurred to me, for the first time, that I was stuck being myself for the rest of my life.
Like, it just hit me that I would never be this blonde girl on the train toting an instrument. People I will also never be: someone who can pull off dark lipstick; someone whose bangs make sense; someone who can remember what she read in a book just a week ago; someone who wears nightgowns to bed and wakes up early to cook scrambled eggs; someone who sits at a desk and handwrites thank you notes, fondly stroking her own penmanship in a moment of self-reflection and gratitude; someone who handwrites, period.
I have a sister who’s sixteen years my senior, which made her sort of unreal to me. Growing up, I would observe her life and make up stories about what my own would look like eventually. I pictured myself dating a tall, be-sweatered and brown-haired man who wore glasses and read books. We would live in the Columbia University dorms that I thought were regular apartments back then, and we would listen to records and burn incense and hang tapestries and own cats. I had seen my sister do these things—or maybe it was a character from A Different World—and I felt entitled to them. My 2D version of my sister would someday become my reality.
Thing was, I didn’t realize that indulging in those fantasies at age four, ten, fifteen was just one more thing I (the real person, me) was doing — like brushing my teeth, going to work. Fantasizing about the fake me wasn’t just a hobby the real me enjoyed, it was like I was unknowingly practicing “The Secret.” I’d always thought there would be some event, a Big Change, that would turn me into the person I imagined myself as. The person I was supposed to be. If I just focused enough, I would be “reborn” as the correct person.
Like, one day I’d magically stop stumbling over my words because that thing in my brain that tells me I need to get it all out at once would disappear. Or one day, all the things that made me who I am would be muted, all my past experiences made irrelevant, and I could get to the real business of knitting blankets or baking cookies or whatever the fantasy adult me enjoys doing. One day, I would wake up as a bad-haircut blonde on the train who plays the viola.
But these things are superficial; they couldn’t possibly fill up an existence. Hobbies and perspective and mindfulness are all just trimmings on the core of who I really am, and adding or deleting those things will still leave a whole lot of “me” behind. So I stared at this blonde thinking, “Fuck, I’m trapped being me for the rest of my life.” And later, I told myself, “Well. So is she.”
I wanted a 2D life because it’s easy. It’s a simpler way to exist. You can project whatever you want onto the baker or the musician. There’s no sadness for the woman who knits.