I always thought it would be fun to be an actor. In grade school, my best friend and I used to talk about moving out to Hollywood to star in the next big motion picture or television series. As we got older, I moved on to other things, but my friend was a man of his word. He’s still a resident of Hollywood, California to this day (and there’s a chance you’ve even seen him on TV).
Being an actor, like being a kid, means you get to be someone (or something) you aren’t. The best actors in Hollywood are masters at convincing you that they really are the characters you see on the big screen. In fact, some actors are so good at what they do that it’s disappointing to learn about who they are in real life.
It turns out that I may have been a better actor that I once thought. But my performances weren’t in theaters or movie studios. Mine took place in every day life. I confess I’m guilty of changing who I was so other people would see me differently, and apparently, did so quite well. As I’ve gotten older and started to care less about what other people think, I look back on what happened and why I wanted to kill the real me.
It began many years ago.
When I got into high school, my interest in girls peaked. Actually, I was interested in them long before high school, but it wasn’t until my teen years that I started dating. I only had one problem. I couldn’t find many girls who wanted to date me. This came as a bit of a surprise. I always thought I was a pretty good catch, but for some reason that wasn’t enough. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince many of the girls in school to meet me at the movies on a Friday night.
So began “the Case of the Empty Black Book” (for those of you under thirty, that was the little book you kept phone numbers in—especially the ones that belonged to girls). I launched what I hoped would be a brief investigation that, once solved, would bring my dateless weekends to an end. But after questioning several suspects, I discovered something that took me completely off-guard. Though I wasn’t able to confirm it until some time later—around eleventh grade—I uncovered the hard truth that girls in high school didn’t think I was cool enough to date, nor did they see me as a good catch. After months of investigating, with no witnesses to contradict my findings, the case was considered closed.
After the verdict came in, I had another year to think about what had happened. There are no words to describe the feelings created by the injustice of a false accusation. Me, not cool? Me, not a good catch? Say it ain’t so, Joe.
So, I took that last year of high school to concoct a plan—a plan so well-devised, so carefully orchestrated, so devious, a plan so good it just had to work. I would undergo a transformation. Not a nose job or a facelift but a transformation that, once complete, would render me unrecognizable.
I began to change who I was, on the inside and out. I dressed differently. I became interested in things I thought others liked instead of doing the things I liked. I emulated cool—what I thought others would perceive as cool. It took some time, a few years perhaps, but I became a completely different person. But would everyone else see the person I was becoming? Would they accept me as I wanted to be accepted?
My plan worked. Now, the girls who were like the ones I wanted to date in high school were interested in me. Other guys thought I was cool and wanted to hang out with me. I started accumulating lots of friends. On Friday nights, I had my choice of places to go and people to see. All those restless nights and long days I spent conceiving the intricate details of my plan were starting to pay off. Finally, the world was accepting me for who I was.
But in my planning, one small detail had eluded me.
People weren’t accepting me for who I was, but for who they thought I was. I should have seen it before, but I didn’t. I was so obsessed with being accepted in the eyes of the world, I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening. The real me was dying. And it’s because I was killing him.
The truth didn’t come out until years later. I was at home alone and it was quiet. That’s when the real me appeared, having found me after years of searching. Somehow, he had managed to make his way through the layers of phoniness I had wrapped myself in for so long, clawing his way back to the top in one last-ditch effort to be rescued.
“What are you doing to me?”, he asked. Right away I could sense his desperation.
“What do you mean?”, I responded. I admit I knew, but wasn’t in the mood to discuss it.
“You’ve been killing me, choking out everything I was and everything I am. And for what?”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t done anything. This is who I am now.”, I said.
I’ll never forget his reply. “No, it isn’t. Sooner or later, I’m going to catch up to you. Then, you’ll be exposed for the phony you are, and everyone will see it. Even you.”
Then, he left, as quietly as he had appeared, leaving me in the loneliness of silence.
Though I didn’t want to admit it, I knew he was right. I was a phony, but was so immersed in my new personality that I had been blinded to the truth. I had been doing it all to get people to like me, to accept me, and to see me as I saw myself. But those people weren’t seeing the real me, they were seeing the shell I had created. I was tired and couldn’t go on any longer. I knew it was time to do what had to be done.
So, I’m here to turn myself in and confess.