I’ve been alive for more than a quarter of a century and I have no idea who I am.
Sure, I know some stuff about me. I know what I like — animals, smoothies, puns — and I know what I dislike — snakes, human papillomavirus, celery. I know I’m five-foot-four. (Fine. I’m five-foot-three-and-a-quarter.) I know I’m a brunette. (Fine. I know I’m blonde and ashamed of it.) I know my people came from Oklahoma, and way before that some of them were kicked out of Scotland. I know I’m good at writing and bad at confrontation. I know I don’t believe in ghosts unless I’m in a creepy basement and that I believe in miracles since you came along.
There’s a house full of stuff that I own that says my interests include the Beatles, taxidermied turtles, and regular vacuuming. There are people I hang out with who will say that I tell bad jokes, lose my temper sometimes, and appreciate a good blanket. These are all facts about me, but they don’t really tell you who I am. I’m not sure that’s even possible.
There are just too many Stephanies to pin down. I don’t mean that in a schizoid way, or as a complaint about the popularity of that particular name in the late ’80s/early ’90s. There are probably too many of you, too.
The Many Versions of Me
- Work Me — Often quiet, sometimes cocky, a little too into Google Drive
- Friend Me — Not proactive, good at listening, belated returner of texts
- Blog Me — Annoying navel-gazer
- Life & Steph Me — Handsy
- Drunk Me — Really handsy
- Hypoglycemic Me — Not hungry, then suddenly mean, then really mean, then face-down on the floor crying
- Meeting a Boyfriend’s Family Me — Polite to the point of having no personality, pretty sure that people enjoy candles as gifts
- Home Improvement Me — Definitely making everything up
- Sleeping Me — Twitchy. And probably gassy
I really think there’s a slightly different version of me for every situation. And not just event-type situations, either. I’m talking a me for every mood, time of day, blood sugar level, and lighting. So it’s hard to nail down exactly what people want to know when they ask me to tell them about myself.
Of course, all these versions of me have commonalities, so maybe that’s what I can bring up. We all like jokes and hate the word “basically”. We all resent inefficiency and react dramatically when confronted with emotions, ringing telephones, and poorly punctuated signs. Maybe that’s me?
The only thing I know for sure is that there are some versions of me that will never exist, no matter how hard I train.
The Me’s I’ll Never Be
- Charming Me — She wows employers and cute boys alike and never feels weird about her teeth
- Cool Me — She looks really good in a leather jacket and does not get nervous before haircuts
- Health Nut Me — “More kale? Yes, please!”
- Fun-at-Parties Me — You’ll never catch her hiding from humans on the basement stairs
- Understands Taxes Me — She’s got a handle on W-2s, W-9s… all the W’s, really
- Takes Important Conversations Seriously Me — She wouldn’t dream of making a joke at a sensitive time like this
- Malibu Me — She owns shorts
I don’t know why I don’t have these traits but I do have some of the other ones. A little bit of nature, a lot of nurture, and a lot of repeated viewings of 30 Rock, I would guess.
All I’m saying is that 26 years in, I have no idea what people mean when they say “be yourself” because to do that I’d have to be simultaneously sweet, mean, jealous, trusting, confident, shy, zen, neurotic, hygienic and unwashed. It’s lazy advice. What they really mean is “be authentic in this moment, whether that means you’re authentically cocky, or hungry, or happy, or brave, or all about candles, or violently opposed to celery.”
If you happen to be writing a children’s book or an after-school special, put that in there. I would do it, but I’m off to be authentically twitchy. And probably gassy.