Masks (post inspired by @crsmihai)

Hello Travelers,

I recently read Cristian Mihai’s post, Masks, which begins with the following:

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

You see, I’ve found the universe works in tight little circles. Settings, themes, and motifs repeat in upon themselves, often in subtle ways that most would miss. Maybe you find yourself thinking of an old song and then it comes on the radio while you drive to work, or you reminisce about, say, watching dragonflies as a child, then one lands on the table in front of you. As if the fabric of time and space ripples in tune to our thoughts and, when it can, bends to say, “Don’t worry. I’m listening. I hear you.”

This is why I find the linked post, and the Hawthorne quote, so simultaneously surprising and expected. I have worn many masks in my life, and I know I will continue to cycle through a repertoire of facades, shifting from one to another, day in and day out.

Most seem to detest both those who do this (as if they do not), and having to do it, but I love my masks. Being able to slip into a persona, or even the mere adopting of different mannerisms in different crowds, is a mark of social intelligence. I consider my ability to do this to be an astronomical improvement, considering I was once the social outcast, reading a book in a shadowy playground corner. Now, I slip into the crowd like fog slips between city streets; quietly, easily, and unnoticed until I am all there is to notice.

But, sometimes, we cannot wear masks. If romantic relationships are to work, we have to pull off our disguises and say, “Here I am.” Maybe we don’t have to reveal the whole picture at once, but no good can come of trying to cover up the truth.

I’m not saying we should hide or be ashamed; our masks are as much a part of us as our secrets, and we each deserve to be loved and appreciated for all of our identity–not just the nice parts.

Beneath our socially acceptable presentation, each of us harbors something dark and gritty and fun. I have learned this lesson many times, because it is one we often need to re-learn every time we convince ourselves, “I can change for this person.”

Sometimes, change is good. We can trade out one mask for another, reveal some scars and hide the rest, but when the shows over and the lights go down, we’re left in the dark with all the things we hide. Sure, the audience never has to know, but you, the actor, you will always know exactly who you are, mask or otherwise.

I recently had to cast aside a mask of my own. The damn thing covered too much; I found myself looking in the mirror and neither liking nor, more importantly, accepting the role into which I’d been cast, so I cast the part aside.

Standing here, I may feel some guilt over those who had grown to love that mask, but when I look in the mirror, I prefer to see my scars. Though I cycle through identities, when I return to what I call home, I proudly remove those masks and say, “Here I am.”

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