Dear Preston Yancey wrote today about the temptation to fake our way through life, pretending to be someone we’re not, and it resonated with me so. I realize that the “It Gets Better” campaign was initially directed to youths bullied or marginalized for their sexual orientation, and maybe it wasn’t meant for people like me who have it so easy. But nevertheless I felt my heart aching today as it does so often for younger people I know and love. I only have a little wisdom, but here it is.
There is a lot inside you and you don’t know where it goes. You want to do great things, you aim for magnanimity and don’t know how to get there. You long to be A Person, and perhaps you don’t see yet that you already are one.
You amass the trappings of whatever it is you wish you wanted: for me it was grungy jeans and flannel and hemp accessories and birkenstocks for a while. I thought that I could wrap myself in something that would make me real, but I was disguising myself rather than creating myself.
And through it all, the talking. Perhaps like me your curse is that you don’t know what you mean until you say it. More importantly, you don’t know what you don’t mean until you try that out once too. So you ramble and shoot off at the mouth and say things that appall you and miss social cues and begin the long slow process of learning how to be.
In its way, it would have been so easy to stay in the disguise. The externals might have changed, but I could still construct myself from the outside, and never have to do the hard work of emptying myself and building myself again.
I still work on it every day. I still have to remind myself to be loving rather than to hide behind the layer of cynicism and disdain that purportedly makes for a sophisticated person. I have to remind myself to shut up, that my identity doesn’t exist outside of me, that I don’t have to let people know who I am in order to be who I am.
We run to become better runners, we pray to become better at praying, and so it will be with your efforts at being. Someday you will wake up after years of trying, day after day, and you will ‘be’, without the masks and the labor and the confusion.
You will look at yourself and say “ah, I see now that God didn’t make me wrong. I see now that every day holds that great things to which I aspire, as long as I show up. I cannot bring a shell of myself, but I have to be me, and indeed that is all I can be now.”
And you will be A Person. You already are.