I realized that I prefer damaged people. People who have made mistakes. People who are still struggling. People who are like me. There is a bubble of tension that seems to burst when I am in the company of these people. I feel like I can breathe, like I don’t have to hide who I really am.

Around most people I feel like I am putting on a show. I play my character, repeat rehearsed lines, and smile wide. It’s not that I’m being completely fake. That character I play is made of parts of me. I just edit out all the parts I fear I’ll be judged for. Maybe everyone is doing this to an extent. But for me it feels like I spend the majority of my time in this character. It’s exhausting to be continuously moving these marionette strings.

When I find someone who I know has suffered or is currently suffering, I feel an immediate kinship with them. I gravitate towards these people. I feel comfortable around them. I feel like I can finally be myself without fear of judgement. I feel understood.

I wish I was able to feel this way all the time, with everyone I interact with. Maybe no one would look down on me or think critically of me if they knew who I am. But it’s that fear of not being understood that causes me to keep most people at an arm’s length. And while wearing this mask makes me feel more comfortable and safe, it also keeps me from truly connecting with the majority of the people in my life. It doesn’t really mean much if all the people that like you don’t really know you.

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