Reflection, a song from Disney’s Mulan has been a sort of theme song for me ever since the movie came out when I was still a small kid. Instinctively, I had known that the face I was presenting to the world, even my parents, at that time wasn’t who I really was. I was in the full throes of eidetic confusion, going through periods of intense paranoia followed by elation followed by depression and anxiety followed by a high that took me soaring. I had the hardest time keeping a straight face outside my room. Outside the little world my brothers (both not quite a full eidetic but having strong traces of the ability) and I created.
When I looked at myself all through HS and college I would be the smiling girl, the academic girl, the one with the unusual hobbies who could quote entire books on demand. Still, that wasn’t me. The me inside was scared, confused and horrified at the thought of the kind of human contact my yearmates engaged so freely in- oh, yes, I was also the one who was a good deal younger than anyone else in her year. I was free fencing, at least. Or in a dojang. Otherwise, I had to put on the face I saw in the mirror when I hid myself away.
Anything I didn’t want the world to see at that time was closed off inside me. I stopped doing Tae Kwon Do to be the perfect student. I started playing tennis once more to meet the right people. I was anything but authentic, anything but real. I was the plastic-thinking plastic law school barbie I needed to be to get top grades, recommendations, a good job despite being from a non-lawyer-y background (my family are scientists, generations back). I got what I wanted- and lost myself in the process. The person whose made-up face was looking at me wasn’t me. Why did I keep playing at being someone I wasn’t? Hard to say, but I guess it was because for once I wanted to take the easy way out. Nobody should know what a freak I really was.
Ever since I started working, I’ve been dropping the masks one by one. One day, I hope to be looking at the true, naked me, the me underneath the bravado, the me that’s terrified, and brave, and real. I want to see that girl, that woman. She might even be someone I could like.
Until then, I’m going to need the plastic face to get through the day- or have you ever tried to drop-kick a co-worker? Guess what, there’s at least one touchy-feely person I’d love to knock out sometimes.