Have you ever really wondered WHO you are, are you REALLY who you think you are, and WHAT made you who you are?
Ever since he can remember, he was different. And he knew it; he simply didn't want to acknowledge it. "Why?" , you might ask. Well, there was a problem with being different, and he was fully aware of it. Maybe he heard it on the TV, or overheard someone talking about it, or maybe read it in a book. He didn't remember how he got the fact, but that didn't matter. One thing was certain: different equals bad.
That is why he decided to fake it. After all, how hard could it be to mimic them? Do what they do. Laugh when they do. Don't talk much, and don't show any particular interests. Stay out of trouble - simple as that. If only it were...
It looked easy at first, almost effortless. Observe, memorize, repeat. Nothing too difficult, he thought. While he was with them, and had an example in front of him, it worked. But a wise man once said: "Sometimes, you can trick some of them, but you cannot trick all of them, all the time". Or something very similar.
There were occasions he did not account for. Lose your focus for a split second, let your guard down for just a brief moment, and they'll start suspecting. The more complex (or rather - illogical) their actions became, the harder they were to pull off. You would expect that, by doing something on a daily basis, you would get better and better at it, as time went by.
So did he. (Un)fortunately, that was not the case. The more he pretended, the worse his act got. He hesitated, doubted, made mistakes... He thought too much. They noticed; he panicked. That was the end of his charade. Suddenly, his presence was no longer required. Nor desirable.
What was he going to do now? What was the logical thing? He did not know, for he could not thing logically. He was disoriented, scared, disappointed, bitter. Powerless even. But most of all, he was angry. At the plan, that he now decided was stupid. At himself, for failing with a stupid plan. At them!
That's when the anger took over. It gave him the necessary strength, the power to actually do something about this mess he got himself into. A good way out, it seemed (perhaps due to the fact that it was the only way out he saw at the time). But anger is a cruel master, and rage a double - edged sword. First it takes away the fear, the insecurity, the doubt...
As it feeds on them, it grows bigger. But also, it slowly, seamlessly chips away at your soul. There is no joy, happiness, nor laughter. Nothing remains but rage. And the stronger it gets, the harder it strikes. But be mindful of that, when you swing it - it strikes you too. Sadly, it was just another thing he had to learn the hard way. It did not quite consume him, but it was too close for comfort. Had it not rained that day...
It was a gloomy Monday. The worst kind there is. To make matters worse, the rain was blowing in his face. Even the wind seemed like it was intentionally making malevolent noises. The irony is, the weather perfectly depicted the state of his mind.
He needed to make sure to avoid stepping into any ponds. He hated getting his feet wet... And that's when it happened. Go ahead and give credit to whomever. Be it luck, chance, a random set of events, god(s), the universe - you name it. Makes no difference - something was on his side that day. Because what he saw in that pond, changed him. One could argue it gave him a second (well, third actually) chance.
The reflection frowned at him. It's eyes had an eerie, reddish glow. They stared at him with ill-intent. It also seemed to have just a hint of a smile, which provided it with a most sinister look. The sight shook him to the core. Try and imagine that feeling - being terrified of yourself...
Yet again he was lost, disoriented, and a bit nauseous. At least he didn't panic this time around, and that proved to be the difference. He could plan, analyze, predict, visualize, even learn from his mistakes. He could think, and he did just that. After taking a deep breath, he ventured down the corridors of his mind...
A flat, black circle, made out of nothing. And yet, it was somehow solid. He was positive his feet were touching the ground. He jumped up and down several times, just to make sure. It was still there. He looked up, only to find an even stranger sight. Walls. Thick, and grey, and ugly, and cold (he assumed). He couldn't tell exactly how far up they went. Had to be at least five meters. Maybe more. Dozen entrances, ninety degree turns, long walls in every direction, no matter how many times he looked (hoping something would change). And no exit, he was sure.
He smiled. It was a smile of despair and utter disbelief, for he knew he was trapped in this maze. What else could he have done? Even his own mind was against him... One might argue that being stubborn is no virtue. Hell, perhaps it could even be considered a vice; but it was solely that stubbornness that kept him going. If there was a way out, he was going to find it.
It was impossible to tell the time, but it seemed like months have passed, maybe even years, until he stumbled upon something. What appeared to be just another dead end at first, started emitting a strange neon glow as he drew near. He was still a good few meters away, when he noticed the light started to resemble letters. Don't be naive, they didn't spell "Exit". The two words flickering were "not Them". Yes, with the capital T.
He was glad he was out, and the idea wasn't even that bad. He'll be not Them. What that meant was that he will be the complete opposite of what he once pretended to be, but later despised. He won't be shallow, harsh, impatient. He won't deceive. Not anymore... He will be considerate, respectful, well-mannered and all other kinds of positive traits you could imagine. Certainly, he was on the right path. This couldn't have been another mistake, right? He thought so too.
There were a lot of not Thems out there. More than he believed possible. And he fit in nicely, for they were exactly the same as him - completely opposite. It would've worked out pretty well, if only he could maintain it. It's not just him, no one could. No one that he had met, at least...
This "stage" lasted the most, and it ended quite differently. Or maybe it didn't even end, it's up to you to judge...
The thing is, They were still the norm. And he needed Them, in order to be Not them. But what really messed things up, was a small detail he had overseen - old habits die hard, and the anger doesn't go away just like that, it takes much more effort.
He was a pretender, but there was no one left to fool, but himself. Soon enough, all three of him got caught in a strange melee, and started mixing with each other. He did not even try to fight the confusion. He merely gave in. It felt like somebody else was steering, and he simply observed from the back seat. He had no control over his own actions, but he didn't seem to care. He even stopped thinking about it. All he wanted was a break. From Them, from not Them, from himself. Nothing - that's all he wanted.
Hollow. Weird. Repulsive. An empty shell aimlessly wandering about. No goals, nor desires. Just a peculiar cold feeling. Random, insignificant places. Meaningless events. Faces he could not recognize. Absolute solitude. Everything was grey and disgusting - the buildings, the streets, the people, himself. Until...
It was an interview of sorts, or something along those lines. He did not know the people staring at him across the table, nor did he feel the need to get to know them. But they seemed to care an awful lot about who he was. He was faced with the most difficult task (yet). He had to describe himself, but using only three words. He didn't recall saying anything, but he clearly heard the words "I don't know". You might have guessed - that answer did not suffice. He knew it too. Finally he realized - he needed some help figuring this one out.
Searching, reading, exploring... It all lead to the same conclusion. He was hesitant about asking other people, for only a madman goes around asking others who he is. Eventually he mustered the strength. Some were just baffled, some found it weird, and there were even ones that laughed at the question, for it had to be joke, they assumed. Yet, there were some that took him seriously, and tried to help. Even though the means were all different, the answer was always the same - "Be yourself".
Just a stupid, meaningless phrase, he thought at first. Even if it wasn't, it was still useless. For how can a man be himself, if he has no idea who he is? Little did he know, that it was not a problem, but a solution. Many wise men, scholars, even men of religion have sought the answer to the same question, for as long as time itself exists. He chanced to meet one of the above-mentioned on his journey.
He was determined to get his riddle solved, so he pushed for answers. He was impatient... "I am myself" , he insisted. "How can I be someone else, anyway?" , he added with a cynical smile. The wise man stayed calm. "What are you, when you let others tell you what to think, say and do? An image, or a faint copy perhaps?" , said the man quietly. He remembered now, what was at the beginning.
"I do not need to pretend any longer, nor do I have a desire to. I do not let Them influence me anymore". A good response, but the man had an even better one. "That is only the first step, but indeed an important one" , he explained. "Give little thought to what others tell you to see, hear, think, and be. Let no one, and nothing, influence your mind. Question your decisions, to make sure they are truly your own. And when you have done all that, you would have but merely scratched the surface."
Even if he somehow managed to do all that, there was still a big issue remaining. "Imagine I did that already. Still, I would not know who I am" , he said slightly agitated. The wise man smiled. It was a genuine smile, the one you might often see in little children. He had a joyous expression... "That is not the question, but the answer you so persistently seek. You have to understand what it is that you truly are. Calm your mind, take away the impurities, and take a long, hard look at your soul. That is where you will find your true self."
Silence. He needed some time to soak up the words. He understood the task, but that didn't make it any less difficult. Nevertheless, he was going to do it. He had to. After a slight nod, as a sign of understanding, he thanked the man. Gratefulness, an interesting, rather new feeling. It was pleasant.
Now, he is determined to find the real him, hidden away within the confines of his soul. He has fully committed himself to it. It isn't going too bad actually, looks like he might find the true "I". But there is one thing the wise man had forgotten to mention (or deliberately didn't do so). It is not just about finding yourself, but also accepting it when you do. And then, simply being.