We all have different personas based on who we’re with. The occasional time when you’re out with one friend and then see another and your behaviour visibly changes; then suddenly the existential questions come flooding in:
Why am I acting differently now? In what way did I just change? What am I really like? Who is the real me? WHO AM I????
It’s hard to focus on small talk when internally you’re having an identity crisis.
I think it’s most noticeable at parties. Not your parties – not the parties you always go to consisting just of your group of friends. No, the other parties: the one out of every ten parties you go to when, to your horror, it’s not your squad.
And then… panic.
What is this party going to be like? At our’s we always dance, is this a dance party? Do I know any of these songs? Am I even drunk enough to dance in front of these people?
At these parties, you’re not you. You’re not the person who controls the music. You’re not the person who screams “SomeBODY once told me” when All Star comes on. You’re not the person that gets a round of applause when you down a pint in under three seconds. At this party, you’re the one who sits on the side and waits for it to end.
You know – the same as that person at your group’s parties: the childhood friend of the host who doesn’t know anyone and doesn’t join in, the person that you look at and think why did they come if they werejust going to sit there?
Enter a word from the Dictionary of Obsure Sorrows:
Sonder – the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
Because just as you aren’t the sitting-at-the-side-not-joining-in person at a party, neither are they. At their parties, they’re the person spilling their drink because they’re too into dancing to Mr Brightside. They’re the person making everyone do the dance to Saturday Night. They’re the person that always brings the vodka and, even when there aren’t any shot glasses, demands that everyone still does shots – even if they have to be out of soufflé dishes.
The shy stranger on the sidelines is not you. It’s not them. It’s not any of us really. Or is it? Are we confident unless we know no one, or shy unless we know everyone?
How can we tell what we’re really like? If we can’t maintain a consistent persona at something as simple as parties, what about the other more complicated parts of life? Who are we? WHO AM I?
All these philosophical ponderings and more are ones that, actually, I can’t answer.
Soz. I’m no psychologist – I can barely spell the word.
So, I guess we can never know who are true selves are. The only advice I can offer is, at those occasional non-squad parties, maybe just get completely hammered – then you’ll dance.
Problem solved, no need to thank me.