All the World’s a Stage
Sometimes I imagine my life is the Truman Show—you know, the 1998 Jim Carrey movie about a guy who has unknowingly lived his whole life as the star of a lifelong reality television show? Truman goes through every day not knowing that he is a performer as well, that everyone is in on a giant ruse, that nothing in his life really exists and it’s all a giant hoax that everyone is in on but him.
I can’t help but think about my life the same way. I look at the people around me, having fun, talking to their friends, being happy, and all I can think is, “This can’t be real.” Because if it were real, why would I feel so empty? Why would I feel like I have no worth? Why would I feel like I exist only at the whim of everyone around me, to use and walk over and ignore whenever they want, while I have to stutter my way through some kind of turgid existence?
It comes most often when I have dull moments. When I’m in bad headspaces and remain too long by myself, I start introspecting more intensely than I should—and I’m a pretty introspective person anyway. I start wondering if the people in my life have some kind of ulterior motive, that they’re only interacting with me and pretending to be my friends because of some stake they have in it for themselves, the way the characters in the Truman Show are all paid actors set up around Truman. I worry that someday this illusion is going to come crashing down and I’m going to be abandoned. All those players around me will reveal that they were merely players on this world’s stage, and the stage will empty and the audience will go home and soon it will be only me giving a performance I never wanted to give. Just me, alone with my intrusive, self-destructive thoughts, standing in the darkness on stage, not even a spotlight on me, because even the lighting crew has gone home.
I’ve lived my whole life as the person who is ignored, walked on, overlooked and taken for granted. I hate it, but I only have so much fight in me. After a while of being treated badly, I lose my will to fight, and I become resigned to this fate that was seemingly preordained for me. It is this anxiety over losing everyone that keeps me up at night and breaks me down during the day. I worry incessantly that no one really likes me, that people are only taking pity on me, and that I’m not really worth anyone’s time. I go through days that I can’t remember, but they are just fuzzy and blurry in my head, and all I can do is stare at whatever is in front of me, feeling nothing, comprehending nothing.
No one ever asks me how I am. No one ever cares.
On good days, I adopt this nihilistic viewpoint with glee, recognizing that I don’t matter in the grand scheme of anything. To quote from Groundhog Day the Musical, I get to rejoicing that “Nobody cares what I do / Nobody cares about my life / Utterly uninfluential / No regrets and no potential / Every turn inconsequential.” It’s a personal mantra of mine, knowing that I don’t matter and I’m going to die someday. What a great philosophy! To recognize my insignificance in the world!
But on bad days, that mindset overwhelms me. I think, “Yep, no one cares, so what’s the point. Why should I endure this?” Many times in the past two years I’ve reached a breaking point where I wonder if this is what my life is really going to be like, and if it’s going to be worth it—that is, if my life is going to continue to be a series of snubs and letdowns, and being abandoned by those I thought were my closest friends.
A student I work with asked me once what my biggest fear was. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the thing I fear now above all other things is being abandoned. I didn’t realize how terrified I am that my life will come crashing down because no one will want to take the time to know the real me, warts and all. This is my biggest fear: When the lights go out and the audience empties, who will be left on stage with me?
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