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I think I have at last come to a realisation that I should have had long ago.
Read on for plot exposition. It’s a long post, I’m afraid, but it’s all stuff that’s very important to me.
Chapter I: Three Years Ago… (Morgan-type)
Three years ago, whilst the world around me danced in sunlight, I was not a happy person. I was an angry teenager, 17 years of age. I raged at the world and all its unfairness, and never realised that all the unfairness was my fault.
A lie that began as an ironic joke that one too many people believed had grown out of managable proportion. Through my fear of admitting to a friend that something he’d believed for years was a lie, I became almost a compulsive liar. More and more of what I talked about became a lie to back up the original one, spiralling out of control until I was living an almost entirely ficticious life for the purpose of one friend.
That was not, however, the only mirror life I was leading. With two separate sets of friends hating each other, my parents disapproving of both and both sets of friends convincing me to ignore my parents, I was living a lot of different lives. From day to day I made excuses to two groups whilst I met one group, and no-one was completely convinced by the façade.
The stress of juggling all these things proved unbearable.
Chapter II: Cracking Under the Strain (Sundancer-type)
The events of that summer built up pressure until something had to give, something had to break. That thing was me.
My parents had arranged a family holiday, for which we’d be leaving at around lunchtime on a Saturday. Friday night was fireworks night on the beach, and I’d been invited to a barbecue by the friend to whom I constantly lied about my past. My parents declared that I couldn’t go to the barbecue. I pushed the point. They said I couldn’t possibly go out the night before and be ready for the holiday. I said I could. They forbade me to go to the barbecue. I said I would. They said it was one or the other - a night’s barbecue or a week’s holiday.
I held my father in the air by his neck whilst my mum threatened to call the police.
I ran away from home with my pyjamas and dressing gown my only posessions.
I picked the barbecue.
The following morning, the Saturday, I got a call from my dad, saying he wanted me to go back home and go on holiday with them. But he wasn’t calm or nice. He ranted and scremed and threatened to disown me if I didn’t go back home immediately. Faced with a choice, either staying with my friend or spending an entire week on holiday with parents in that mood and knowing that I’d lost to them, I chose to stay with my friend.
Constant exposure to him dug the hole of my lies deeper and deeper until, a few weeks later, I snapped once more - this time, with him. I ran away from his house, I refused to speak to him, I went home to my parents’ house and I cried until I had no more tears left to cry. My mother was calm, and comforting, and accepting. She’d forgiven me - and, although my relationship with my father never got quite back to normal, I think he may have forgiven me too.
Chapter III: The New Personality (Ian-type)
I started work, a 9-5 office job two hours’ travel from home. In total, twelve hours a day away from home, busy. I came home to eat and sleep and not much else. On weekends I enjoyed my parents’ company in some small and mundane way or went to see the few friends of mine that remained in the town since the university term had started.
The friend to whom I’d lied intercepted me several times on my way to or from work, perhaps trying to repair the friendship. It didn’t work, I had no emotional response to him at all anymore. I neither liked nor hated him, I just didn’t care. Eventually, he gave up.
Before long, exhausted by my four hours commute each day, I moved to the town where my job was and started something like a new life. I lived in a house with friends, learnt about responsibility and maturity and having fun, and I learnt about a different kind of friendship - one that exists spontaneously between adults, rather than friendships that appeared somewhere far back in our school days. I became an adult myself. I saw the world in colour for the first time, realised how things really worked, realised what my memories meant to me, realised what other people meant to me.
Chapter IV: Emotion’s Triumph (Kotori-type)
Before long, spring turned into a boiling hot summer which passed on into autumn again. I left my job and the friends I had there behind, and moved to university. Friendships by the dozen blossomed and decayed, and I was caught up in a whirlwind of emotion for the first time in a year.
I started using IRC and LiveJournal. Of course, it couldn’t be long before the drama started to hit.
In January of my first year at university, issues concerning a certain two of my friends dominated my heart and mind and kept me awake until gone 4am on exam days. I realised, at that point, what I could do. I could help people, or at least I could try. I had few emotional ties myself at that point, having only just left my emotionless shell of the past year, so I could afford to carry emotions for other people. I found lots of people around me who had problems and emotional issues. By talking to them, I found I could burden myself with some of their angst to relieve the stress on them. And, eventually, they’d get better. And their happiness would make me happy.
I’d discovered, at long last, how to feel both angsty and happy at the same time, something that between my angry teenage years and my emotionless year of work I hadn’t managed. No matter how much it hurt to be loaded with other people’s negative feelings, the knowledge that I’d make people happy in the end because of it made it bearable.
And that’s how I lived. I tried to become as selfless as possible. I realised that I’d survive no matter what life threw at me, so I could afford to look after other people and lighten their burdens for them.
Chapter V: Forcing Myself to Exist (Malachai-type)
Around this time last year, I cracked once more. So burdened with the feelings of friends and the feelings of my characters, along with the beginnings of my own troublesome feelings, my core personality had eroded. I didn’t know who I was anymore, wondered if perhaps I was just the sum of other people and other things and not someone actually real at all.
That day, I saw the cliffs at the edge of the ocean of insanity. And I stepped back.
With the help of my friends, I recovered. I saw that my personality was whatever I made it, and that whatever happened I was still me. My friends helped me through all of this, and I became forever indebted to them. I felt that I had to live for my friends’ sake more and more. And I was fine with that.
Chapter VI: Advice and Annoyance (Starfall-type)
More and more I was being advised - by friends at first, then even my parents - that this wasn’t a good way to live my life. They told me to live for myself, they told me to be selfish. But I couldn’t. By that point I really hated selfishness, couldn’t stand the thought of it. I thought that I knew better than them about selflessness, that I’d be fine the way I was. After all, I’m an optimist. I really do believe that everything will turn out right in the end.
So I carried on. Whilst on holiday in Spain, virtually everyone told me that I shouldn’t care so much about people. But I didn’t stop, I thought I knew best, and night after night I cried myself to sleep. Still, rather me than my friends, right…?
It was towards the end of the summer just past that things started to go wrong. I developed emotions and angst myself that pushed me close to my limit. And still I tried to take aboard other people’s problems and deal with them.
Now, is the critical point.
The events of the past month and particularly the past week have pushed me to breaking. The selflessness that I was convinced was the right way to be, and the results of it, are causing so many problems. I’m regularly being advised to be selfish. My attempted selflessness, or the results of it, are hurting people. Claire and Racheet, two of the people I care most about, are as far as I can see almost to the point of actively hating it.
I’m coming to realise that I can’t pretend selflessness anymore. There’s no way, as Mark rightly pointed out to me on one of many tearful evenings, to go through life without hurting people or shutting yourself away from everything. And shutting myself away will achieve nothing but my own unhappiness. If it’s impossible to avoid causing pain, why bother making it the ideal I aspire to? It’s alright to try, alright to be nice to people as much as possible, but I can’t spend all my energy and all my sanity chasing something unachievable.
Chapter VII: Ego and Radiance (Tsuki-type)
I can’t cope with my emotional state as it has become, so I’m changing it. For once, I’m willing myself to change, for the better. I’m not saying that I’m going to be selfish, or self-centred, or that I’m going to stop caring about people. I’m just going to start being me, I’m going to give up my shell of existing only to take away others’ pain.
I’m going to make decisions, use my will, and coax out that long-hidden ego that lurks inside me. I’m going to think about things, do things my way, and be responsible.
I’m going to change - change into myself.
I’ve spent enough time in my cocoon of self-denial now that I can change from my unpleasant adolescent caterpillar into a shining and glittering butterfly, floating on the world’s early morning breeze.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you… myself. I may not be good at being myself yet, I haven’t had much experience. But I’ll try my hardest, for everyone’s sake as well as my own.
Thank you, everyone, for your perseverance. I understand now.