There's this episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall jokes about a condition he calls "revertigo"--the act of becoming a former version of yourself when you're around people from your past. It's not really a scientific term, but the act is familiar: when I'm around my high school friends, I act quite differently from how I normally act in the present. My sense of humor changes, my vocabulary is different, and I'm sure my body language is different too. It has nothing to do with living in the past, it's just about re-adopting old habits. In some ways, it could be about filling an expectation too: my high school friends knew me at a certain point in my life, and circumstances that happened during and after college have changed me since.
At lunch the other week, Minerva and I were talking about chapters in life and how glad we are we aren't the same people we were 10 years ago. Although we've retained some of our strange habits and faults, for the most part, we are different--not just older, but more mature, more cautious.
Is it all just a response to being more beaten down by life? Or have we really "grown up"? (What does "growing up" even really mean when I still enjoy gel pens and Pillow Pets?)
|circa 2005...oh dear|
Because I think that's what it is: there are these layers of our personality that aren't natural, and they tend to hide who we are because we're so busy and so concerned with being liked or being one of the cool kids. How many of us were just our regular, nerdy selves in middle school? I can tell you I wasn't.
I think when we're surrounded by people from the past, we tend to reapply those layers out of habit and, depending on the environment, out of fear that we won't be liked as we are now. For the most part, it's a silly and irrational fear, but it's not unbelievable. Reintroducing ourselves to people we already know can be scary. What if we don't meet their expectations?
But it's OK to keep peeling away the layers of masks we pile on top of ourselves because that's where the best parts are kept hidden. And along the way, you might lose people. You might drift apart from people you were once really close to because you don't see eye-to-eye anymore. You might snap at friends as you try to figure this all out. You might avoid others as you seek clarity, only to realize that the confines of your bedroom don't provide you anymore answers than the outside world does.
Truthfully, I don't think we'll ever stop peeling away layers because every day we keep putting on more based on the people we meet. But maybe there'll be a day when we can all stop giving a damn and be our authentic selves.