“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Or so said Oscar Wilde.
But what does it mean to be myself? Who is this “I” that I must become? And should it even be remotely funny or acceptable or disdainful that a woman my age is stumped when asked those questions? Should I not, after 36 years on this planet, know the answers already? I don’t know about the shoulds but here’s the thing for me.
“Be yourself” bewilders, confounds, petrifies, and paralyzes me.
Which self do you mean? The one who is a mother or a wife? Do you mean the teacher or the student? The daughter or the sister? The friend or the lover? The poet or the dancer? The musician-wanna-be or the writer?
Do you mean the woman who has coffee running through her veins and milk flowing through her breasts? Do you mean she who, in the same breath, adores her children yet yearns for time away from them? Do you mean she who shuns beauty when it appears in all forms pretentious, pompous, or superficial yet perpetually seeks it in the most unusual things and places, in the most unexpected people? Do you mean she who sometimes wants nothing more than to bury her nose in a good book (both for sniffing and reading) or she who can’t wait to see the world? Do you mean she who would wear the old clothes but would buy the new book?
When you say “Be yourself”, which self do you mean? Or is it more correct to say, “Be your selves”?
Isn’t it better to try to be the many yous that live inside you, to recognize each one, to celebrate each one of them, and to let them have their day or two in the sun?
They say you only have one life to live. But maybe cats have gotten it right with nine. There may even be more. And there’s no limit to how many lives we can have. For the self is not one, but many. And in the great play of life, each person has not one part to play, but many. For we mean different things to different people. And when we look in the mirror every day, it’s always a different person that stares back at us. Not the one we saw last night. Not the one we will be at the end of the day.
So be your selves.
Better yet, just be.