If expectations were a book, they would be like the dictionary; an endless supply of ever-growing, ever-changing definitions that I consistently stumble to reach. The problem is that society has lost its love for reading, so in order to tell the narrative, the cover will have to do. But, as the cliché goes, if we judge a book by its cover, we fail ourselves and the story. Because I conceal the purple moons below my eyes, you can’t tell that I only slept for twenty minutes. Because I answer questions in class, you can’t tell that my heart beats in my ears before raising my hand. My friends lie in the books I read. I work to pay for school because I can’t afford it.
Nothing has come easily.
Everything has been a fight – battling my brain chemistry comes with a price. But, because I never say anything, and you never ask, you assume that I’m living my best life.
It’s supposed to be a compliment, a praise for an easy lifestyle that paints a picture of perfection. It’s flattering that you admire the way I live life, in my framed fence of innocence and study. Your gentle sentiment has violent repercussions in the form of unknown third-party expectations, though.
Please don’t tell me that I’m living my best life.
At a glance, you see a painting. The colours are bright, the lines perfect, and the smile slight. You see the freedom, the ease of organized living and structure. But, I am not simply a painting; I am the artist. I am the seventh draft the painter crafted that day, and I will likely change again before the day is over. The colours cover the cloak of shadow that weighs on me like chain mail. The lines are straight because I fall into chaos without guidance.
The smile is the most devious of them all; a trickster of all traits. The smile is slight because it can either appear or disappear from sentence to sentence. There is no freedom; there is only anxiety and misunderstanding. What you see is not what you get, and what you get isn’t always the truth. I am a master of disguise, and illusion is my specialty. You look at the painting, but you do not see the struggle it took to make it. You don’t see the isolation, the internal air consumption, and the rapid heartbeats.
Please take a closer look.
They say you are your own worst critic. Imagine having not only yourself, but the expectations of others’ perceived perfection to uphold. You cannot speak to anyone, cannot share with anyone, that you are more than what you have painted yourself to be. You cannot let your guard down, or everyone will know that you aren’t as strong as you say you are. I have bound myself to this idea of perfection, and anything else is uncharacteristic, unnatural. If you say that I am living my best life, then my best life is riddled with pressure, stress, and instability.
I know this concept is confusing, and I know that I don’t make life easy. Spend some time looking at the colours – see that they are shades and shadows. See that they have faded with time, succumbing to drab monotony instead of their former dynamism. Look at the lines, and see that I am a mosaic, a picture broken into a thousand pieces, patched together again and again. This is going to be a challenge for both you and me. We have to try to look beyond the façade, beyond the appearance. We need to be kinder to each other. I might not be living my best life, but I’d like to try, and I’ll need your support to do it.
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash