I have always loved acting. Being able to seamlessly morph into a different person and live their life so believable that the audience sometimes forgets you are not the role you played, when you step off the stage. In acting you are provided with all the circumstances and character traits your role is associated with. You are given the lines written by someone else and have the job to deliver those lines with as much authenticity as possible. The more you can lose yourself in the character you are playing, the more credible you become.
As a teenager acting became my escape from what was going on in my “real” life. In my real life, I was a girl trying to understand how I was supposed to relate to my peers, after having been told by my family not to share my sexual abuse story with my friends. My family had disconnected me from my abuser, but warned me all the time that no teenager would ever be able to relate to me and that my life would be much harder, if I shared my story. So I silenced the voices that felt that I should be able to share and be understood. Instead I escaped onto the stage and into roles that were heroic and wonderful. It was those roles on stage that were admired and earned the respect of my family and friends, not the ones that I carried out in my private life.
As I moved from teenager to adult, I was assigned more and more roles in life. A few came without a script, but for most there seemed to be a societal script of how they needed to best be carried out. Taking on these roles was not a challenging task. Friends and supervisors would lay out the script of the role for me, if I was willing to listen closely. And the accomplished lay actor that I was, I could take that script and turn it into the person that they wanted to see and admired.
If this would be a fairy tale, I would have become the most popular person ever, admired by all and adorned with all the riches of the land.
But life isn’t constructed this way in the long run. After my parent’s divorce, I was sent a script for “the perfect daughter” by both of my parents. The only problem was that they were not congruent. I guess, sometimes you are sent more than one script, but can’t play in all movies at the same time. In the end you have to reject one for the other. And so I did…and lost the connection to half of my family right along with the choice.
Despite, having the underlying feeling that playing out the roles that others wanted me to take on was not the right way to create my own life, I had become accustomed to living my life this way.
The problem with taken on roles so well is that they become you, whether they were dictated to you by someone else or not. But if you ever tried to find a way to backtrack out of such a role, you are faced with a lot of anger and disappointment. People feel betrayed and suddenly can’t relate to you anymore.
In hindsight, I wish I would have understood that I was hiding behind these roles that others threw out there for me and that I so willingly took on as part of myself. I wish I would have been able to see that taking on somebody else’s scripts would prevent me from writing my own personal story. Only after my marriage fell apart and I took a hard look in the mirror, did I realize that I do not yet truly know what the story is that I can write on my own. With many roles stripped away and having nothing to lose, I am finally ready to start over. There is no better time than now to look at the roles that I do still play and make decisions on whether they fit into the story I want to write for myself going forward or whether they have to be put to rest.
This time around, I will read the scripts I am presented with very carefully. If I do take on a role, I will ensure that it leaves room for my personality and narrative to be inserted into it. Plus, I plan to create lots of my very own stories…