By Hannah Tyler
I deeply miss being alone in a room full of people. Walking through a crowded train station in a city where I know no one, an indistinguishable face amongst many at the cinema, a supporter whose noise has been subsumed by the crowd.
Recently, I was sitting with some friends outside at the pub talking about the impending possibility of happiness. A lot of our joy comes from situations where we lose ourselves or become someone else for a while. Dancing, celebrating, being in nature—all of these involve surrendering part of ourselves to something bigger. But recently, we’ve had to be ourselves for so long. Literally staring at our faces, having our every move reflected back at us.
Our true self is supposed to be the person we are when no one is around. That’s who I’ve been for the past 6 months, but she feels like the least of me. She’s unadorned, in boring, comfortable clothes, no make up. Serious and workmanlike—and scared, with no agency. She is reversed, flat. My mirror self. And my god I am bored of her. I’ve been her for so long that I don’t quite know who she is anymore. My attempts to see who she could be now feel tentative, over-rehearsed, odd.
I, like everyone else, put on some weight in the past 6 months. I like how I look this way. But yet, with it came a freak out, because I couldn’t fit into my clothes. I was no longer a person who wore a full suit in William Morris print. I was no longer a person who wore bright orange waist high 70’s pants. I could no longer visually lie that I haven’t put any effort into my outfit by throwing on jeans that fit perfectly.
We don’t exist alone. Everything we do is a relationship between ourselves and the world around us—because everything we do, experience, or see gets filtered by us. You are a constant conversation between the people around you and the environment. You don’t exist, and will never exist as a neutral presence, and to try to be that is futile. There is no true self. Only what you need to be at that time.
I am different things to different people, depending on the setting and the context. I’ve always subconsciously mirrored people, which seems deliberately insincere, but for me it’s actually about wanting to know someone. Knowing where you both meet, what you both share. I’ve forgotten what people feel like, not to touch, but the way it feels to be amongst people. Navigating the alchemy of what people feel like in proximity, how the vibe can change by adding or removing a person. The physicality of presence.
With one of my friends I always feel calm, even though they are an anxious person. They feel like walking out of a strong gale into a warm house, or walking a small way away from a chattering group of people to look at the stars by myself. Being in their presence feels like a relief. Another friend feels laid back, like a BBQ on a sunny Sunday arvo. With some friends I need to pour everything out immediately, with animated gestures. Others I am quiet and still for. We may fill these different roles with different people, and not even realise.
As I’ve started to see more people, I can begin to see what I can be again. The dormant things I am to different people have begun to wake up.
I am clashing red and pink. I’m a song I loved 10 years ago. I’m a crop top with fairy floss sleeves. I’m flirting with the wrong people. I’m dancing in my kitchen again. I am potential and I am full of joy.