I have a running joke with my close friends that I am in a mutually exclusive relationship with my cello, and to some extent, it is definitely true. I spend more time alone with my cello than I spend with all other people combined. My cello has seen the best and the worst of me, and unlike most people, who I have to change to fit in with, my cello does not judge me when I scream for ten minutes at a piece of music because I’m struggling with a bar. It has seen my tears, it has seen my anger, it has seen my joy… It sees me. While I may not be able to be myself around people, when I am with my cello, I am me.
I am not really sure when I am truly myself. It could be when I am with other people, and am overly outgoing when trying to make new friends. Perhaps it is when I am on my own, and find I become introverted and antisocial. Am I really me when I am out on a Thursday and have enough drinks to turn a good night into me wanting to break down in tears for no good reason? I could be me when I am walking between classes at university, with nothing to do, feeling relaxed and hopeful. None of these are any more, or any less ‘me’.
I am really myself when I am alone. I do not have to worry about finding a good topics to keep conversations flowing. I can tolerate my personality without any guilt or fear that I am boring those around me. I can focus on the stuff that I like. I am really myself when I take off all my make-up. In all honestly, wearing make-up is something I do to please others – to beg for good impressions – and I am only myself when I don’t worry about other people’ judging me. In saying this, I feel I am really myself when I can fully trust someone, and have an honest conversation with them. This is quite hard, because no-one can be transparent enough for a person like me, who is quite afraid of being hurt. So far, the only person I have found that I can really talk to, without any of the walls that protect and keep me separate from other people, is my mom.
Not to say that gaiety is my façade, but in the moments where I smile or laugh or rejoice, I do think that I am not completely true to myself. Rather, who I am unfiltered, unhidden, real and raw comes through when I talk of unhappy things from the past. This is me stripped of inhibitions and breaking out of my veneer. I lay myself bare, not to elicit pity or to rob happiness away, but just so I can be real. I have come to realise that the happy and wonderful things have polished my life, while the past that I have built myself on, and have been moulded so deeply by, has been beset by indelible hurts. I’ve learnt to not just walk away from this pain, but to baptise myself in its fire. I swallow my tongue often when pressed to talk about these things, and so, I hope it is you who listens when I finally crush my apprehension to speak.