In my high school drama class, we had an assignment to create a unique character and then present a 5 minute sketch that would introduce the character to the audience.
One friend wrote the character of a gay man who just found out that he had HIV. The sketch ended with his dazzling high school performance of One Song Glory. After high school, he finally came out of the closet.
Another friend wrote a character of a teenage girl who was popular and pretty but embarrassed about her good grades. In her sketch, she wrote in her diary about her secret love of science class. After high school, she went on to become a veterinarian.
It was a surprisingly honest and revealing project for many of us. Most kids wrote stories of the people they wanted to be, the true selves that were brave enough to do the things they feared.
The character I wrote was a 30 year old cardiovascular surgeon. She was brilliant and beautiful and cold. She didn’t need friends or family. She stayed up all night reading the complete works of Shakespeare and then went to work dazzling people with her skills. (note: no interest in actually saving people’s lives.) After high school, I went on to do none of these things.
I see now how odd it is that my ideal adult was one who was brave enough to stop trying to eat, sleep or love. In my perfect future, I would have finally succeeded in cutting my dependence on basic human needs. I saw my high school self as flawed because she was hungry (from having no food), she was flawed because she felt lonely (from having no parental affection). She needed to be needed so badly that only someone’s life hanging in the balance, dependent on her as a star surgeon, could fill the void.
These days, in my yoga class the teacher will ask us to set an intention for ourselves. My intention is always “To be free.”. I think it’s always been my intention, I just had a screwed up way of thinking I would achieve that freedom.
In my young brain, my ideal self didn’t eat, love or sleep. I basically thought that I should grow up to be dead.
Today, my ideal self is brave enough to fully embrace the need for food, sleep and love. I want to be free to be human. Free to be alive.