One of the first may-jor papers I wrote in college was for an early essay writing class.
Everyone at Emerson had to take the same class (WP102, I think? I can’t remember). It was supposed to teach you how to write a big term paper. So, the goal of the course was the same for everyone, but each individual professor got to choose the topic for their section.
I got a young Masters student who chose the concept of “passing” as our topic. Other segments got topics that were, let’s be honest, way sexier. While I was reading essays by gay women pretending to be straight men, or lightly complected black men passing as white, other students were learning about… ok, I can’t remember. Movies and shit.
At the end of the semester, I wrote my term paper on what I called “belief passing.” It was all inspired by my favorite novel, Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. In it, Howard Campbell is an American who “pretends” to be a Nazi during World War II in order to have a luxurious life in Germany during the war, and then gets surprised at the end when he’s convicted of war crimes and dies in prison.
Lighthearted stuff, obvs.
The moral of the story is, as KV says in the beginning, You are what you pretend to be– so you better be careful about what you pretend to be.
I think this sort of moral should be instilled on people my age.
I read a blog post recently by a young woman (a year older than me) who says that she hates talking about politics– and people who do talk about politics themselves. Sorry, kittens, but I’m not going to be that person. You are what you pretend to be, after all. I don’t want to pretend to be a person who doesn’t feel strongly about the things I do feel strongly about. It’s disingenuous.
But on the flipside, I’ve been having major confidence and anxiety issues for a while now. I have been living my life with the constant inner narrative that absolutely NOTHING that I do is worth merit or pride. That I’m the worst blogger that ever lived, the least likeable person on the internet; a friend-less dork that wasn’t popular at 16 and isn’t popular amongst her peers at 26 either. (It’s amazing how much more confidence I had as a teenager than I do now. I feel like I was usually so happy with myself back then– aside from the fact that I was forever mortified that I couldn’t find jeans that were long enough to cover my ankles.)
Of course, it’s not just blogging that I take my mental hatchet to. In my daily life, I feel like Mindy Kaling– Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Of course, much of my isolation boils down to the fact that I have panic attacks when I’m about to go hang out with “new-ish” friends. (Or, frankly, be in a place with more than 10 people contained in four walls.) I hate being around people who haven’t known me for 10+ years and know what a dork/loser I am but love me anyway.
Co-workers, work associates, cool people I met once or twice and duh– clearly they are just pretending to enjoy my company. They are just going to dump pig blood on my head at the prom and I am not telekinetic so I can’t even exact my revenge on them. Life sucks.
So, it’s time to start playing pretend. I’m going to pretend like I’m a really good blogger. One that everyone loves and connects with and whose posts you talk about at dinnertime because I’m so gosh-darn witty.
I’m going to pretend like people actually want to hang out with me.* (*People apparently actually want to hang out with me?)
I’m going to pretend that when I show up to events and smile, my smile isn’t that I Am In Actual, Physical Pain Because of My Awkwardness smile.
And maybe I’ll just end up… being the person I want to be?