Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I Knew Who I Was This Morning...

"I knew who I was this morning, 
but I've changed a few times since then."
~from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

So, it worked.

I wrote that last blog post as a sort of magic spell, like a charm meant to counteract a stronger enchantment. I was feeling this giddy rush of unreasonable emotion - and I am a sane person, I realize all that was ridiculous - but I couldn't get it to stop. So I wrote about it, and suddenly the Instagram Infatuation was over. I mean, I still like the guy's photographs (he's a talented photographer), but I don't feel a flutter any time he likes one of my posts now. Writing about it helped me find the way out of it. I'm like Sleeping Beauty if she pinched herself to wakefulness without waiting for true love's kiss. I broke my own damn enchantment, thank you very much.

And the moment it was over I looked back on it and felt silly. It was like observing the actions of a stranger. I had been that person not two days ago, but I wasn't that person any longer. The I'm-infatuated-with-an-internet-stranger person felt as far removed from me as the little girl who first heard the story of Sleeping Beauty over two decades ago.

A couple years ago my coworkers threw me a birthday party and made it Alice In Wonderland themed. This worked on many levels - I was a children's librarian, I love fantasy books and tea parties and insane whimsy - but my friend Sue told me that wasn't the reason they'd decided to play Mad Hatter and March Hare. "Gracie," she said. (She's one of the few people on this planet who are allowed to call me Gracie.) "I read that quote - I knew who I was this morning - and it was just you."

And I knew what she meant. When you're a hundred different people in a given day, it's hard to keep track of why you said that foolish thing yesterday, or why you yearned so exuberantly after a figment two weeks ago. Part of it is being a writer. (On a given day I may be on a different continent, in a different time period, or navigating the inner workings of another world. I may be a man twice my age or an animal or a robot or a little girl who's never left her home in Alabama. Which is hard, since I've never been to Alabama. But on the page I can go anywhere and be anyone, and sometimes I'm lots of people all at once.) But part of it is also just my personality. I skip and hop and jump around to all different points of the emotional spectrum. I'm not schizophrenic or bipolar. When I talk about this I'm using metaphorical language. But still, when Sue said that to me, I thought, "You're right. You're so right."

I like being a thing that's constantly changing. It's hard to pin me down because of it. I'm like a slippery fish; I'll wriggle out of your grasp if you don't come prepared for a fight.

But the thing about changing is that you get to grow, to stretch, to become, to recoup, to change direction, to start over, to revisit, to try, to fail, to fall down, to get up, to be all the things. Or as many of them as you can.

Adults have this worrying way of trying to thrust adulthood upon young children. We imagine futures for them when who they are as a person is not even fully formed in the present. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we ask them, and usually receive a bunch of cute, naive replies.

When people asked me this I never knew what to tell them.

I wanted to be a detective.
I wanted to be a pop star.
I wanted to be an explorer.
I wanted to be an archaeologist.
I wanted to be the person who discovered that dragons were actually real.
I wanted to be a fashion designer.
I wanted to be an actress.
I wanted to be a veterinarian who works exclusively with tigers.
I wanted to be a film set designer.
I wanted to be the person who edits together movie trailers.
I wanted to be a film director. (There was definitely a film phase in there.)
I wanted to be a gymnast.
I wanted to be a professional soccer player.
I wanted to be the proud owner of a literary-themed bed and breakfast where each room was based on a different book.
I wanted to own a book store.
I wanted to be a librarian.
I wanted to be a playwright (and wrote a few terrible musicals).
I wanted to be a photographer.
I wanted to be a board game designer.
I wanted to be a food critic.
I wanted to be a travel writer.
I wanted to be the person who invents cool new kinds of fireworks.
I wanted to be the person who gets to name all the lipstick and nail polish colors at a cosmetics company.

It changed so much over the years. I wanted to be everything. I wanted to do everything. But through it all one thing was the same: I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to write, because writing was the only way I'd ever get to do and be all the things I wanted. Writing was the only way I'd ever get to truly be me - all 100 billion of us crammed into this one person.

So it's not surprising to me that writing also is the thing that frees me. That knocks some sense back into me. That pulls me out of whatever silly obsession might rule my head for a while.

If I'm all these different people - well, some of them are foolish. I'll admit to that.

But I'm trying and changing and hoping to become so much more.