As a child, I felt an overwhelming urge to be someone else.
I wanted, more than anything, to be the son my parents always wanted. I hoped to live in a time and place where the things I did mattered. I wished that I could have been a part of history. I imagined taking part in the revolutionary and civil wars. I pretended to be a young, Jewish girl escaping from concentration camps. I would wrap myself in a quilt and pretend I was hiding in the back of a cargo train; just trying to get away. I would barricade my door and play pretend for hours, but I was always summoned back to reality in some cruel way or another.
My sisters shared a disdain for me. I was the youngest; spoiled and bratty, as far as they’re concerned. They rarely let me join in on their games or watch TV with them. I yearned for their acceptance and for my parents’ affection; two things I now know I could never have. I wondered what it was like to be from a family like my friends’ at school. Their parents would hug them all the time, and they got along with their brothers and sisters. I felt like I was the only one who went home to be sad.
My parents never really hurt me. There were times when I was punished and I felt unloved, but my parents’ only fault was in my perception of their actions. I was too young to understand that my parents were people, too. They were struggling to raise four daughters. They put all of their own needs and desires aside so they could make sure we were okay. They did the best they could with what they had and they made it work. From where I was sitting, though, it felt like they had forgotten me.
I would lay awake at night wondering if my parents would ever come check on me. I wondered if anyone ever thought about me and if I really mattered at all. It didn’t feel like it. I felt invisible. I thought that, maybe, if something really big happened, they would remember how much they loved me.
I wanted to be one of the girls from my books. I wanted to be like my friends Joanna, Michelle, or Lauren. I wanted to be anyone but me. I wanted to have a different name, a different life, a different past. I wanted to be someone important, I felt so small and insignificant.
I would continue to manifest this desire to matter to someone else. I would try to be someone’s very best friend. I would try to be the smartest, coolest, most interesting person I could be. I was dishonest to myself because I was so desperate for companionship and praise. I needed someone to remind me of my importance. Simply being important would mean nothing without recognition. I needed recognition and affirmation that I was doing something right; that my presence was making a difference somehow.
Of course, your presence doesn’t make much of a difference when you don’t do anything. I spent my time passively waiting for someone to affirm my existence. Maybe I should’ve made an effort to positively influence someone else.
Over the years, I have wasted so much time wishing to be someone else and hating who I am. I’ve wished that I could be anyone more worthy of life for as long as I can remember. I have done myself a great disservice by neglecting my true needs. I have pushed aside that sad, little girl who just needed a hug, and I tried to replace her with someone who didn’t need anything from anyone.
I devoted myself to my new external persona. I displayed myself as a tough, cruel, heartless person. I was not afraid of anything because I believed the biggest threat to my well-being was my own actions. I was right in more ways than one.