Lately this is a question that’s been on my mind, and for once thankfully it’s not a question which is related to my gender, after all I’ve already mostly answered “What am I?” pretty well. It’s a question that’s cropped up now, because I find myself going through a period of very intense emotional upheaval. I’ve spoken before of my history of childhood sexual abuse, well no matter how well you’ve dealt with it in the past, that sort of history is always waiting in the long grass for a chance to pop up, and at the very least make your life extraordinarily difficult. And that’s pretty much what it’s doing to me these days, it’s kind of hard to walk the dog for instance when you’re sitting with your head in your hands, sobbing through a truly enormous snot-bubble.
But it did lead me to wonder if we ever really know who we are.
I can give examples of who I am. Sort of personalised stereotypes to show who I am as a sort of “what I am”. But that just leaves me wondering which of them is the real me.
Some of your reading this know me by my real name. I write with a pen-name, though not to protect my secret identity from my evil arch-nemesis. You see the real me likes being a writer, likes the feeling of accomplishment when a piece is finished, loves dreaming up the stories and articles. But she doesn’t particularly like the process of writing. It involves far too much of things like punctuation, grammar, and hard work. No she would much rather do the daydreaming part, while she plays with her dogs, makes love to her partner, and plays Borderlands on her Xbox. To her writing or drawing are simply a way to be what she really likes being, a storyteller. So Amanda Harper was born, or created, or always existed but needed a chance to come forth…uh yeah, it all gets sort of meta here.
Basically Amanda Harper is a part of me, in the same way that I’m sure deep down Indiana Jones is an unexpressed part of Harrison Ford. She’s me but a different expression of me. If that makes sense.
And she’s not the only one.
There’s the me who was a Scout, who’s really good at map and compass navigation, and the sort of stuff that Bear Grylls would find fun. She took it all frightfully seriously, and did all sorts of advanced courses in everything.
Then there’s the me who was a moderately successful rock-climber for much of her teens and early twenties. Rock-climbing is, (like many sports) a manifestly silly pass time, (golf anyone?) and the me now sometimes finds herself a gibbering wreck at some of the risks I took. I wasn’t a stupid risk taker. I almost never climbed without proper safety equipment. I was careful to only stretch my skills to their limits, not for me the climbing 3 grades above my skill level and finding myself falling head first for a mouthful of gravel, or stones, or stunned climbing partner. No instead I usually put my safety line in the hands of the least reliable creature known to humanity, the teenage boy. You know the ones who can look at a blank wall and still find on it a reason to be distracted by an erection. Man, I should be dead.
And they’re far from alone.
Probably the most important one is the shield-bearer. The shield-bearer is the one who appeared when I was being raped. She was strong enough to fight, strong enough to not have her mind shredded, strong enough not to show weakness, while the rest of me huddled in a quiet corner of my mind, and did its best impression of a gibbering wreck.
The thing is that they’re not separate, or split personalities. They’re more like masks, pulled on when needed, so I can do what I needed to do.
Need to be fearless, the climber.
Need to be reliable, the scout.
Need to be badass, the shield-bearer.
Need to write a book, Amanda.
Need to beat Halo (again), geeky me.
But these days I find myself wondering sometimes which of them, if any, is the realest version me. They’re all real, they’re all me, but one of them must be more…me…I think that makes sense. And lately I’m starting to think that the hurt, frightened, crying 8 year-old girl in the wrong body. The one who was betrayed again and again, who was abuse body and mind. The one who still sits inside of me crying her heart out for herself, when she isn’t shaking in fear of the people she loves being hurt the same way she was. That one. I wonder if really she’s the realest me of all.
So who exactly am I?
I don’t know if I can answer that question. I don’t know if there is a singular answer. I guess there’s probably lots of versions of me, all facets of a hidden core personality. But I suppose I shouldn’t worry about it, maybe if I could answer it life wouldn’t be so much fun. I should probably just enjoy wearing all the masks that are all different and yet still all true to me.
Hmm, not a lot of sense in this article. Maybe I should try this again after I’ve healed.