A very good friend of mine once told me that Gemini’s have the biggest closets of masks. I stared back at my friend (probably for that extra instant that made it borderline awkward), and did one of those head twitches one only pursues when they are really stumped for words. To be frank, I did have words. A lot of them. But it’s not like I would actually say any. All I could think about was how oblivious I was to such an obvious and self-evident component of my existence. “Well that explains a lot,” I finally said, breaking the tension while laughing internally. But unexpectedly I suddenly felt as though I didn’t really know who I was. That what if all this time, everything had just been a lie? Do I only know myself through the masks I use? Wait a minute…who am I?
It’s not rocket science to know that anyone reading this article is wondering what they are really all about as well; searching for an identity in and amongst the many coatings of camouflage one puts on every day. We all seem to start from square one every 24 hours. Waking up, we have a different outlook on life, a new opinion on such topics and motivation completely unlike the one of yesterday. But has it gotten to a point where we don’t even know what our reality is? Do we really know the difference between our genuine emotions from the fake ones?
As I write this, snuggled in my bed late at night with my pink polka dot pajamas on, makeup whipped off, hair twirled up in (now floppy) Princess Lea buns and a Grimes song called “Skin” blaring in the background, I laugh out loud. Is it sad that this feeling – the feeling of being lost – is perhaps one of the most honest and real emotions I have felt since I was 16? I shake my head, “Oh Rose!!”
Back in 2011, I won a three thousand dollar scholarship that my high school was offering to empower one student to travel anywhere in the world to volunteer. Being the confident and self-assured Hannah that I sometimes can be, I decided to venture off to a Cambodian orphanage in South-East Asia; a country far away from everything I wanted to escape, yet close enough to all that I wanted to revolutionize. At 16, I had my life path set, my mission mapped out and genuinely, I felt like I was on top of the world.
Looking back, I know I have left apart of myself in Cambodia. There was something so undeniably pivotal about the events I witnessed, felt and experienced during my odyssey that they molded and shaped me into an entirely different organism. While there, my eyes grazed over the vial smells and all the poverty to find an outstandingly rich, unexplainable beauty from it. And now, I intentionally try to recapture those euphoric feelings of self-discovery and revelation just to feel a little less misplaced and confused.
My recent journey to Tanzania last summer was probably the most outrageous (and most expensive) thing I have ever done to try and regain a sense of self. I remember telling my former drama teacher, but now good friend, over tea and scones (while wearing a killer outfit) that I had to get out of whatever rut I was in. I told her that my African getaway wasn’t really just a new exciting adventure, but it was essentially just a new ‘wise’ idea I had whipped up to figure out who I was in the complex world around me. I missed the old Hannah, the Hannah that was – and still is – waiting to be found.
Looking back on last summer I still have no idea what I achieved and what I lost. And when I recently found something I wrote on my last day of summer vacation, I seemed to be just as confused:
“So I guess this is it. This is the end. Four months, four continents, four countries, one birthday, one diary and a new hand embroidered jacket. I’ve eaten some new foods such as a friendly goat, a loving heart and a tasty tongue. Listened to Breezeblocks 275 times and gone without a shower for two weeks straight. Spent 7 thousand dollars on 10 days of my life, used up another couple over 113. Worked 315 hours. Decided I hate New York. Climbed a fence. Went to a gay club and shot a gun. Found a jaw (not human…)? Watched two full seasons of Girls, experienced a “hurricane”, went on 12 planes, and survived them all. Drank way too many virgin mango daiquiris and saw Alexander Wang. Slurped my first cup of coffee and instantaneously jumped on a trampoline for 10 minutes while in Africa and got lost in New Zealand while sporting a fabulous outfit!
123 days. 2952 hours. 600 images.
But nothing can really describe what happened to me this summer. The good, the bad…and even the ugly. No picture can recount the stories, no video can show you how it’s done. I just feel like I need more time. I feel I have so much more to learn. I feel I could maybe do without it all. What if? What if?…”
As my 19th birthday approaches, I feel a tang of worry that I will still have no clue as to who is behind all these clothes and skin by the 27th of May. I keep rereading the piece above that I wrote nine months ago and understanding this reoccurring need for more time to develop and learn about myself and the world around me before I find a sense of individuality. But is this something to actually worry about?
Masks will always be brought out on various occasion by all of us to protect ourselves from the harsh conditions that lie beyond our warm cozy beds. Without such thing, one may acquire more damage then a frostbitten nose. But as my loyal friend rightfully pointed out, there is no need to have a closet full of disguises. Come on out and stop hiding behind someone else’s façade. Know who you are, know you are strong and have the power to transform things. But most of all, know that there is no use in having a veiled identity for the very thing you are hiding is something worth celebrating.
This month, I have understood that sometimes to learn about yourself, you have to take a step back and listen to others. With experiences as such, one can actually move forward into the future to realize your greatest potential! The identity hunt is a life long game we all must play, but that is apart of the fun! Society is never constant, we are always growing and transforming with every breath we take so we may never know who we are, but that doesn’t mean we should all be fixed on such a thing. For now, we’ve just got to live in the moment, enjoy each breath and laugh as much as you possibly can!
And to the certain someone who made me recognize all of this, I thank you, for if I had never met you, I would have never met myself…
“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” ― Bernard Meltzer
By Hannah Rose Dalton (Montreal)