What it’s like to be you. – By @currantjones
What it’s like to be you.
There’s an essay that I read at university. Or at the very least claim to have read at university. It’s called “What it’s like to be a bat?” and it is about what it is like to be a bat. Not because bats are particularly interesting but because the author reckons there is something distinct about being a bat. There is something that it is like to be a bat. That Bat-hood is different to squirrel- or shark- or Sebastian-the-crab-from-the-Little-Mermaid-hood. So taking that further, there’s something that it is like to be you.
You. You wake up and you are, well, you. Everyone else who wakes up that day will wake up as someone else, someone not you. They might also need a wee. They might already be thirsting for the exact same brand of freeze-dried, instant coffee beans. They might carry that same unbearable weight of terror about what the day may hold. But they won’t feel those things like you. Or not, at least, according to the man who wrote the essay.
Your specific set of loves and hates, foibles, kinks, insecurities, and experiences are probably unique. But they probably aren’t special. You probably share them with a lot of other people, the ones you share a lot with you might call friends. Sometimes you even lie about the things that make you you. The pressure of lots of other people thinking and feeling things, or sometimes just one impressive person makes you pretend not to be you. Perhaps just for a moment, perhaps for a lifetime. You deny the things you believe, don’t do the things you love and claim certainty where all you actually see is amorphic grey.
And then there’s me. As is obvious now, I am not you. I am me which may involves bits of you but is its own distinct thing. It is, given the profession I have chosen, very important to be me apparently. Other people’s experience of me is described as my personality. This must be diffused through all my work for fear the work be mistaken as someone else’s; yours perhaps. At the same time this work but speak directly to you. Not the you you display to the world, the actual, true you. But it must still be me.
So there we are. Me speaking like me but to you. The true you. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one of you. The brief quite clearly states that there are lots of you. Some grouped by age, some by location, some by gender. I, speaking in the way that is uniquely me, must speak to the truth that makes you you, while that truth also makes a lot of other people them.
You don’t like when I talk to them or all of you. You find it impersonal, as if I don’t really care. Perhaps it reminds you that despite being unique you aren’t special. Which is true, but for the sake of my job I need you to care. So I pretend it’s just you and me. I find moments where we can be more intimate, I use your name if I can. I catch you by surprise and say things you think only you could possibly know about yourself. I pander to your need to be you and no one else.
It is wonderful that there is something that it is like to be you. I just wish it wasn’t so hard to imagine. It is very hard to imagine being someone else. After all we’ve only ever been us. But we live in a world that doesn’t try very hard. If you are someone who controls the words, the messages and the stories that are put upon the world perhaps it is time to start thinking about how you might make that easier.