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It comes most poignantly to head when writing a reference. That part of the application or even interview where the dreaded question is uttered…

‘So, tell us a bit about yourself’

Suddenly I don’t know. I don’t know the self that they speak of. The person that I have spent 22 years building, learning and striving to be.

It happens also when I meet someone new. Not just a lover, anyone new. They have no idea who I am, or better yet who I present myself to be. But neither do I.

Who am I ?

Not in the sense of Plato and Aristotle and the soul and my essence. It’s easier than that. I think it’s far more simple.

It’s who I want to be, whilst factoring in the aspects of myself that are unavoidable. No, not the habits and misfortunes that I, my parents, friends and strangers have given to me. The unavoidable aspects of my essence that reoccur. The sun rises daily, and so does my need to accommodate, for example. The sun sets, yet my need to have a tidy room before I sleep remains in my head until achieved.

Who can I be, with all of these unavoidable aspects bundled up with all of the things that I want to be. All of the things that I can be. Funny, Loving, Dark, Complex, Kind, Sensible, Wild, Disciplined.

It’s not contrived because I have at some point in my life felt like I am all of these things. If I were to make a perfume of my self I believe that they would be the scents. The ingredients, along with my unavoidable qualities.

This is what I’m realising. These ingredients are ever present within me. Different days, however bring out different scents. Different contexts bring out different scents. Different people bring out very different scents.

The essence, the perfume does not change. I do not ‘change’ but the things that make up my core rotate, fight for the limelight to be the main smell.

I am a different daughter than I am a friend. To my friends I bring different parts of myself to the surface. I can’t take any credit for this. Until recently I did not know that it was happening. I would have been mortified. That’s not authentic. Your friends aren’t really your friends if you change around them.

Change. It’s such a loaded word as it often follows extremity. After a break up you need a change. When you move away, it’s a change. Cut your hair. Change your diet.

In this context the change is far less permanent. Far less loaded. Far less negative. Once your essence exists in you, the attributes and aspects that surface in different situations are to be noted not suppressed. You are of course still being true to yourself. Perhaps more true. More knowledgeable of who you are. Protecting, promoting and understanding yourself through change.

I might write down these qualities. Add to the list, take away from the list. I am more complex than a list. But then I can see it. Truly see all of the things that make up who I am.

When the question is uttered I will not flinch or sit open mouthed and only able to say ‘I’m a good team player’. I’ll have a list, a carousel of the parts of me. They are ever moving, up and down and round and round but they never leave the carousel.

The only thing that I am wary of. Is allowing myself to be solely who you need me to be. I’ve done this before. Mainly for someone that I thought I loved. But how could I love them if the version of me that they were loving, wasn’t me at all. It was who they wanted me to be, who they needed me to be. I’m wary of this. I think this is when you lose your sense of self, because you’re no longer just changing and shifting through your internal attributes. You’re cherry picking from a tree of everyone else’s.

We’re on the sofa, Faye and I. Intertwined, hungover and utterly fixated on ‘Just my Luck’. A rom com stirs up many emotions, especially in a hungover state. We start speculating, toying with the idea of love. Faye is in love. In this moment I feel alone. Unloved.

‘Do you know what my problem is Faye, I just can’t imagine someone existing that will fit into my life. Flexible enough to talk about ceramics to Ali whilst we bundle onto a bus in Peckham but a week later hold glass of prosecco and dance on the tables of the Clarence, wake up the next day and play 9 holes of golf with my Dad?! I mean, I exist, so they must exist.’

‘Yeah, but you’re different around your London friends and your Cheltenham friends’

I am hurt. I feel immediately defensive and the kind of mortified that I spoke of earlier.

‘No I’m not’

‘You are, I can’t explain it but you are’

I’m not I think to myself. Determined to never change who I am around anyone.

But of course I am. I’m in a completely different setting, surrounded by different people giving off their own scents. All of whom I love. All of whom I feel comfortable around. Comfortable enough to rotate my scents. The parts of myself that compliment them, bring out the best in them. I’m still me. Faye isn’t questioning my sturdy personality or my sense of self, I don’t think.

She just plainly exposed what I needed to know.

I feel better for noticing and accepting the ways in which I change and shift.

I maybe even know myself a little better.


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