I watched the show Scrubs like it was my job in my early teens. There’s a musical episode in the second season that covers the Colin Hays song, “Waiting for my real life to begin”. My adolescence read like a discarded John Hughes screenplay– one where nothing went right, there was no romance, and no happy ending. I– like the characters before me– was waiting for my “real life” to begin. The chorus croons, “don’t you understand// I already have a plan// I’m waiting for my real life to begin”. My whole life felt like a soured repeat. I assumed that my life would eventually congeal, and in this real life, I was thin. Money no longer loomed over me inciting anxiety. And in this real life, I had the perfect relationship and the perfect job and transcended my mental health issues and cellulite. But that’s the lie we tell ourselves– that we are five pounds, one purchase, one connection, one job away from our real life beginning. Your real life appears when you yourself become real.
I only know this because I believed I could perfect and achieve my way to this real life. Life was an addition problem. Add the clothes, the cosmetics, the gym memberships and clubs and people– add it all on until I can’t see myself in my own life anymore. The accumulation of artificiality is a fabulous avoidance tactic, but it wears off. And when it does, you are right there. Because you cannot abandon yourself– no matter how hard you try. I only know this because by the time was 23, I thought that I was getting to my “real life”. I made more money that I thought I could make in my twenties and had all the fancy cosmetics and all of this fabulous stuff. And then, it came tumbling down. I didn’t have that job and my reputation got dragged and the boy I was enamored with took up with one of my friends after leaving me in a park on the week of my birthday.
In the wake of this, I found myself working the front desk at my gym. I found myself humbled and gained about twenty pounds. All of my issues never felt during the opulent stages of my life. They were patient, outlasted the gilded eras, and there was my depression, anxiety, insecurity, defensiveness. Once I scaled the mass of my ego, things were lighter on the other side. I still maintain that working the desk of my gym is one of the best jobs I ever had, and I miss it. I quit projecting all my internalized shame onto other people and took ownership with it. Because when you cannot come home without collapsing onto the kitchen floor, you learn that all discomforts pass.
My real life appeared when my real self appeared. The thing about life is that it can be a ruthless bitch. Nothing is certain. Even the most solid of structures wears translucent against our mortality. Because here’s the thing: your health, your finances, your relationships. You don’t have as much control as you think. Cancer, heart attacks, economic downturns, other people’s stuff— it bends what you thought was titanium. What you can control is how you show up for life. And we can perform and pontificate and a lot of people will fall for it. A lot of people are performing too. The performers don’t recognize those who have been rubbed raw, those who would rather be gravel than lucite.
Performers are not my people. Don’t get me wrong. I am a ham. I am a show pony. But I try my best to show up as me. I am a heap of contradictions, an anatomy of maybes. And my mess has a loud voice that demands to be heard. I relinquish the goals of being skinny or perfect or having a life that aligns with a conventional timeline. Because here is the thing– money will always stress us out and there will always be dirty dishes and disappointing politicians. I don’t want to be around people who cannot both acknowledge and live with that. I don’t want to be the person who adds sweetener because the real taste is too bitter. I also don’t want to exist in perpetual misery until perfection arrives. It never will.
I waited and waited for my real life to begin until I said “fuck it” and let it be. I let the world see me crying and without make up and losing jobs and changing apartments and being so cared the whole time, and not once have I said sorry. Because I believe the realness is the lighthouse. The realness is how your people find you. My people will never find me beneath all of that other stuff. Imposters will find me. Leaches will find me, but those who are true blue can only see me with my mask off. This means a lot of people don’t like me. This means I will make some people unhappy. But I am happy. I am whole, and in order for my real life to begin, strangers don’t get a vote on how I live it.
Humans are a dangerously hopeful breed. I suggest we plant hope where it can grow. So, I farm my truths. I water them and give them sunlight and never remain to wed to them to understand when a truth has become a weed.
That Scrubs musical number ends with the lyrics “On a clear day// I can see a very long way”. Today is your clear day. You see a lot further when you get out of your own way.