I’m The One That I Want

17 Nov

Some people live their lives with a brick wall between them and the world, a fortress that they’ve build to protect themselves against others, and a barrier between their truth and others.  Life seems to teach this lesson very early on; that someone gets made fun of, or told no, or told to, ‘stop crying,’ and the first brick is in place.

As a transparent person who accidentally built an absorbent and flexible wall, I am fascinated by those who stand stoic.  When a co-worker or friend confides in me, often my reaction is, “I had no idea,” and that little, evil voice that lives inside all of us whispers, “you should be this way, what’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” is my response because when I am sad my life often begins to fall apart.  People might find me crying in a bathroom, or spending hours on the phone, or having one too many glasses of wine, but the intensity of my own feelings can usurp my logic and calm.  This, of course, is not my reaction to every minor catastrophe; however, when crisis hits, I cannot stop my own visible reactions.

In the past, this has led me down the past of self-criticism, which starts with the words, should and why, “Why am I not the way I should be?”

Recently, I discovered Margaret Cho.  I had heard her name for years but had never seen any of her shows.  After watching her latest, Beautiful, on Netflix, I began to fall down the rabbit hole of YouTube – the one where you stumble blindly from clip to clip, wasting hours of time.

Though, my time was not wasted because I found her show ‘I’m the One I Want,’ which is about her failed sitcom.  Margaret was the first Asian-American woman ever to land a sitcom that was supposed to be based on her life; however, the network spent a lot of money trying to turn her into an image that they though the U.S. could swallow.

They bought her a trainer to help her lose weight, they bought her a coach to make her seem more Asian, and they turned her character into a caricature of her own self – a stereotype of a socially acceptable Asian American woman.  Definitely not a person who referred to herself a faghag and made blow job jokes.

Margaret began to lose her confidence and crumble under the criticism.  She ended up drinking, drugging and sleeping around, and as she said, “it isn’t easy for an Asian person to become an alcoholic, but I achieved it.”

Then she woke up in a piss-filled bed and realized how far she had sunk just because she had lost her sitcom, just because others told her that she was wrong; that she should be something else.

This resonated with me because I have written theoretical essays on the mental prisons of the world ‘SHOULD’, and yet when I am true to my feelings, when I react in a different way than society has told me; that I should always have my mask on; that as a PR person this is part of my job, I spin in a spiral of  self-criticism and regret.

But, as Popeye said, “I am who I am,” (or yam), and I’m a person who lives very close to the heart of life.  This means that my being forces me to be true to myself, and when I’m not, there are always unwanted consequences: breakups, moves, lost friends, a tangible falling apart that calls for me to make changes.

I don’t think that life holds everyone accountable in such an obvious way, but we all suffer consequences when we don’t live our truths.  Yet, we are society that’s always promoting the brain, the power behind our ability to craft our masks.  Being authentic is frightening; people see your pain, your fear and vulnerabilities and all the aspects of you that others might view as weak.

While I don’t believe we should all rip off our masks off (some are in-grown), I do think that people should strive to live more from their heart because this cultivates more authentic happiness; life begins to reflect back passion and love that wouldn’t be reachable in a prison of other’s Shoulds.

Margaret Cho screamed, “I’m the one that I want!” meaning that she’s the person that she wants to be and that it’s the most important person to be; that we can admire and be proud of our own imperfect being if we’re most happy being it.

It all starts within, with us.  If we’re the ones that we want, it doesn’t matter what Shoulds are thrown at us, maybe we shouldn’t be there anyway: with that person, in that job, in that house or country.  Maybe it’s not a criticism but life telling us, you, me, to ask, “Is this feeding my soul, is this driving me crazy?”

Lately, I can’t help but notice that much of my current life is defined by Shoulds.  I’m pushing back against them because I know how difficult it is, and the Shoulds are getting angry because I’m not lying to myself and letting them strap me in, but I’m not exiting the aircraft either.

My legs aren’t moving because they’re split in two, and I know I was meant to hear what Margaret Cho said, to be the person that I want, the others will come, and I must hope that I will find my place where my heart can rest; that I can accept myself as a person who might not be walking down the traditional path of life: marriage between 28-30, kids to follow, settled down into a practical career, a person who never cries in bathrooms.

That I can accept myself as a creative spirit who can live a disruptive life, full of the breadth of human feeling and emotion; that sometimes I send gifts late; that organizing will always be difficult for me, but in return for my syncopated beat, I can make my own song.

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