You will be you
By Simon Barget
When I was born they said ‘you will be you’ and I thought ‘ok fine I will be me’ and I didn’t really question it, I didn’t really object. But now that I am me, now that I’ve been me for a good many years, I’m not so sure I about it. I’m not so sure I like being me, I kind of wish I could go back. There are good bits and bad bits. But I don’t feel I have much choice in the matter.
At the time I felt it was the done thing to do, to be you, I didn’t really think that I had an option. But now I think I see it, though I could be way off base here, I understand that it wasn’t a fait accompli, they weren’t saying you have to be you, I did have a say in the matter, that when they said you will be you, it wasn’t an inescapable proclamation but more of a stock phrase they were used to delivering, something they expressed with that sense of conviction that comes from plenty of years of no one declining.
Now that I’m me all these years later, it’s a bit late to say hold on; it’s too late to change. I have been me for so long, for countless days, I have lived through all sorts of happenings and occurrences and not once have I intimated for even one second that I would like to reconsider what I now understand was not an imposition but merely a suggestion, not once have I hinted in word or in deed that I would like to go back.
When I am me, I am an amorphous brown mass. I have all these thoughts, and they are unruly and pointless. When I am me, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, one thing to the next. I am so moody and flittish and impulsive and gauche and I don’t know what the hell I am doing half of the time, I have no idea whether I’m going to be hungry or whether I’ll need to pass wind or whether I’ll want to go out for a walk or speak on the phone, whether I’ll decide on a whim that I need to make cartloads of money or whether I’ll just want to up sticks to Peru, whether I will open my heart to my mother or treat her with vituperative anger, whether I will want to lie down or stand, to look up at the clouds or the street scene below, whether I want to answer the phone to the person who has just started calling or slam it down and wish they were dead, whether I want to spend the afternoon in Chiswick or go to the Angel for lunch, whether I want to drink or have a dry mouth, whether I want to pray or take my chances as a heathen, whether I prefer the cold autumn rain to this surprise Indian summer, from one moment to the next I have no idea what I want or who I am and that’s partly why I would like to return to that moment and send myself back.
When I am me, I am beset by thoughts and I think the thoughts are so poignant and I get holed up in them and take refuge as if they’re cobwebs or strings of congealed chocolate which I lather over my body and lavish myself in to get so taken in and covered by these thoughts that it can be a good few days before I emerge from the chrysalis and get myself clean to see the cold light of day.
When I am me, people come up to me and tell me endlessly that I am me, they reinforce me, delight and revel in me, say they cannot conceive of me as anything or anyone else and that makes me sad because they just get the wrong end of the stick and I know there’s nothing I can do to stop them confirming the me they see me as.
When I am me, I am inside this body and it is an unusual body with weird bits and angles and I’m stuck inside it and can’t ever go out from inside it and whenever I want to go anywhere I have to take this ungainly body with me, I have to make sure it’s clothed for example, I have to take care of something I never really truly signed up for.
When I am me, I am trying to keep myself alive almost every single stroke of the day and it is exhausting. When I am me, I cannot abide any tiny hint of someone taking anything from me, from that lump I signed up for just after I was born. I have to protect myself to the nth degree. I have to watch out for threats. What is the point after all? What medal do I get for being me, for looking, acting, talking, smelling, huffing about, for doing all the things in the inimitable way so familiar to me? What is the upside, my reward? And it certainly doesn’t measure up to the amount of effort I put in every moment being me, making sure not an inch of me is removed or curtailed, making dead sure that I endure everlastingly and endlessly to the detriment of everyone else who can all go to hell because frankly I’m all that matters.
And then when I am me, I think about all the ways I could be better all the while forgetting that those improvements have me as the foundation as the inextricable base. And it is completely laughable and shameful how much time I envisage a me that is superior without realising that it’s still me thinking all this stuff, the me I mistakenly signed up for all those years ago, the me I don’t really want to be and didn’t realise I didn’t need to be, it is laughable because I don’t see that it’s too late to change and that I made my bed and that even if a whole host of people are completely against me and find me utterly repulsive -- which I can assure you they do -- I might as well just accept that I’m me and not think about it too much and just let my completely haphazard urges dictate what I’ll be doing from this moment ongoing.
Yes, I am out of control, but it is too late to contain me. I have not known of anyone who has gone back to that starting point and turned themselves in. I don’t have the slightest clue where that starting point is even, and just say that I did, imagine the discomfort in going back forty-six years later saying you don’t want to be you, imagine the looks on their faces, imagine their glee, and if anything’s going to stop me, it will be this, I would rather labour under this troublesome pall than gingerly plead for a rebate, if no one else has done it then I don’t think I want to be the first, if someone else goes perhaps I will follow, yes I’m not sure why exactly this is, but I just don’t want to be first.