I love watching people. I do. I think it is fascinating to observe the nature of how people present themselves, versus who they may actually be. Now, it isn’t like I’ve got a lot of time to sit and, “study” the aspects of humanity; I don’t have any theories or profound anthropological insights, but I do see people. And from what I’ve noticed, there are three kinds of people: masqueraders, clones and humans.
Although I love Matt Damon as an actor, I read somewhere that he once said, “It’s better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” Now, I don’t know the context of the conversation this came from, but I have to say, as a comment alone, I completely disagree. I believe that if you’re being real, truly genuine, there is no way you could ever be a nobody; I just wish people could believe it. Unfortunately, this is where the masqueraders come in. They are the population of cloaked emotions and hidden agendas. These are the people who are too busy trying to invent a persona others will accept, to recognize that they are losing the essence of who they were supposed to become.
Recently, I was at Starbucks, and I saw three sisters come in. The youngest, about ten, seemed happy to be in the company of the two older girls, twisting her hair and smiling, she obviously drank in their company. The oldest, about seventeen, looked at peace, comfortable in her role as the responsible eldest. But the middle, maybe thirteen, (beautiful and brooding) wore an heir of annoyance at the prospect of “being stuck” there, when she obviously had better things to check on the phone attached to her hand. It broke my heart.
This young, perfect-looking, pre-teen princess was over it–over the scene, over her sisters, over the gift of spending a moment in childhood she’d never get back. From the looks of her, she’d already left the joy of being a kid far behind, and I ached for her. What loss … to be overwhelmingly unimpressed with life already. I wished right then and there that the masqueraders, the fakers of life who posed and pretended would recognize how empty their paths truly were. To forfeit their potential to fit in hardly seems worth the cost to me. But the more I see of humanity, the less I see of people who really know how to be themselves.
There is brilliance in Oscar Wilde’s words, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Still, I think the second category of people, the clones, (as I call them) try to prove otherwise. Like masqueraders, the clones are not true to themselves, but instead of trying to put on front, they put on a persona, a public face that identifies and validates them to society. These people put themselves into neat categories and fit into a part. But trying to fit a mold is like squeezing into clothes that are too small–you’ll never be comfortable. Clones are everywhere. People place themselves into groups, clubs, niches and cliques, looking and sounding and acting more and more like a cohesive unit than an independent mind, with independent thoughts. Sometimes I wonder, do we mean to do this? Is it our need to “fit in” that strips us of our uniqueness? Or, is it the fear that being “alone” would make us less than enough somehow? I’m not sure I know, and I’m not sure it matters why, I think it only matters that people lose themselves to the habit of blending in … when it is so obvious we were designed not to.
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” That’s the advice iconic actress Judy Garland once gave. And oh, how I love to watch, study and learn from the people with the courage to listen to her–these are the humans. These are the people who do life their own way and live it like a neon sign. Not attached to a label, a look or a lifestyle, I adore the humans who haven’t forgotten how to be one. In many ways, observing people who are sure of themselves is like watching an artist unfold a masterpiece. The confidence and charisma they bring into a room brings color and focus to an otherwise dull scene. And the best part is … they could care less who is watching.
That same night, at Starbucks, two tables over, there was a young couple (early twenties maybe) who I caught being human. I mean this in the most genuine way there is to compliment people, because their aura was infectious and vibrant. Loud, un-filtered laughter filled their corner of the coffee shop. His indie-style t-shirt, tattoos and laid-back heir completely contrasted her preppy-crisp appearance, but her giggle and his chuckle were harmonious. They ignored the stares, the questioning looks and the “get-real” glances. They were completely enveloped in enjoying the moment they were in … together. It was awesome, and before I left, I told them so.
I’m not sure I can say that I’ve never worn a mask, or fit myself into a neat category to dissolve into, but I do know that at this stage in my life, I’m far closer to “human” than I’ve ever been before. I don’t always agree anymore, I speak up, I laugh loud. I raise my kids to be confident, to be different, and to learn more about the world for what it is and what they want to make it. I’m not perfect at being me yet, but the good news is, I get to practice every single day; and so do you. So follow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice and, “Make the most of yourself.”