We all wear masks. Each of us. You’re not quite the same person you are when you’re hanging with your old college friends that you are when you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with your parents. We play roles.
Some of us are better at it than others. Some of us go further than others.
There’s a raging internal torment going on inside me. There might be one going on inside of you too. I don’t know. Why don’t I know? Because you hide it.
My masks are well defined. I’ve even given some of them names. I’ve taken this to an art form. As I arrive at work in the morning while my internal monologue is screaming at me about how pointless everything is, how empty and rancid my life has become, a friend texts me to ask how I’m doing. I look down at the screen and imagine replying
“I’m desolate. Hollow. Empty. Hopeless. I want nothing more than to die right the fuck now. How are you?”
I look over at Antonio and say “I think you had better take this.”
“I’m wonderful, darling. How is my favorite beautiful princess this morning?”
Cheesy. Over the top. Flirting so obvious that it can’t possibly be taken seriously. That is Antonio. He comes in handy for certain people. The reply comes back “You’re in a good mood this morning!” No, I’m not. But I want you to believe I am, and I succeed.
I studied acting when I was younger. I was good at it. I think I was good at it for a reason. In method acting, you create a character in your mind. A living, breathing, thinking person that lives in your mind. This character is part your invention, and part you. You put it on like a costume, and you become the role. You don’t just say the lines in a convincing manner, you literally become the character you’re portraying. Their thoughts become your thoughts. Like an add-on module to yourself.
I have several of these characters. They don’t have lines in a play to read. They’re characters that I’ve created over the years to get me through day by day. People who can pretend to be normal for me so that nobody sees the empty pathetic shell behind the curtain, only the great and powerful Oz.
Heath Ledger died from this, by the way. He was so disturbed by the character of the Joker he had created that he overdosed while trying to cope with it.
Sometimes the masks come instinctively. I don’t even notice myself putting them on. I can’t help it sometimes. It’s like I can’t interact with any other humans without finding a role to play. Like my entire life is one long bizarre stage play with a multitude of roles all played by me.
But there’s one problem: sometimes, when nobody else is around and I have no role to play, when it’s just me, I wonder if there’s a real me under there, if any of these characters I play are in any way comprised of my real personality. If I have a real personality…
The answer: I don’t know.