I live the real world. It is glorious. It is messy. It is hopeful. It is oppressive. But it is real. But … we are all also characters in an Unreal World too. A world where the sun always shines, lives are perfect and every damn person has good news to share. It is aspirational, but it also a big, fat lie. Yet we believe. We hold our lives against this mythical world that only exists in our social media feeds, television shows and the movies. We discover our lives don’t compare and believe we’re not enough or unworthy or doing something wrong. We lie about how perfect our lives are as we stand hip-deep in caca. No more. It’s time to get real, people.
Drawing A Real Line in the Sand
As the fog from my depression started to lift and I reemerged from underneath it, I realized a few truths:
- I felt like a fraud because I was one.
- I didn’t really know me.
- I was tired of pretending.
There was a large part of me that wanted to sink back into numbness and forget. It was tempting, so tempting, to let the abyss reclaim me, but a tiny part of me said no. She wanted her Beyonce moment, a victorious fist pump and was ready to draw the line in the sand.
This transformation didn’t happen overnight, but I see her now when I look into the mirror. She is me. And I don’t hate her. In fact, I kinda like her. Cuz she’s real.
A Stranger to Myself
Almost all of the truths I discovered through my depression fall under this banner: I was pretending — an actress with her very own fake reality show. I played a version of me that seemed right in an Unreal World. I was annoyingly cheerful. A yes-woman who liked what you liked. Who wanted what you wanted.
But inside — there was a different Tanya. But I never let her out. She was too feral and didn’t want to play along in this fake world with its fake people and its fake happiness.
I often felt lost because I had lost sight of the real me and what I wanted out of life. I felt fake because I was wearing another person’s skin, living in a Stepford World. It’s time to shed my old skin, that was never really mine, and live in the real world as me with all my glorious imperfections, flaws and also very real dreams, hopes and aspirations.
Meet the Real Tanya
Like Popeye said, “I am who I am” and this is who I am.
- I am short. Really short. And I can still wear kids shoes. This is particularly nice when it comes to buying sneakers, although I have to be careful they don’t have the Frozen characters on them. To be completely real, I also rarely buy sneakers because I hate exercising and I’m more of a flip-flop kind of girl. My toes demand FREEDOM!
- I love to laugh. It’s one of my favorite things to do. And I like low-brow humor. Dumb and Dumber? Loved it. Laughed until my stomach hurt (I blame my Dad for this).
- I believe ALL cats love me. I bear scars that prove otherwise but I still believe.
- My first cat was named Mama Cat who became Grandma Cat when her babies had babies. Eventually, I gave up on being accurate because it was too confusing.
- I am a fast reader. I also used to read the endings first, just to make sure I liked how it ended. I have mostly stopped doing this.
- I love food, except for Thai food and sometimes sushi. I particularly love eating at Mom and Pop restaurants.
- I am Korean and can barely use chopsticks. I get weird looks at Asian restaurants when I ask for a fork, but it’s all fun and games until my flying chopstick accidentally pokes you in the eye.
- I used to run to my parents’ bedroom in between claps of booming thunder during storms. My dad would shout, “slow down”. I never did.
- I dream about being a writer, but I’m scared to try. Maybe I’ll be amazing. Maybe I’ll be awful. Both scare me.
- When I told people I wanted to be a writer, they thought I should aim for Oprah’s book club. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the books inside me probably weren’t literature with a capital L.
- At some point, I decided crying was weak and took great pride in the fact that I never cried. I was wrong.
- I am kind, cheerful, funny, smart, sarcastic, moody, sad, angry, envious, hopeful, loving, lonely, sensitive, ashamed, optimistic and a dreamer trying to be more of a doer.
- I am trying to get healthy. It is a work in progress, especially for someone who tries to get out of exercising because her big toe hurts.
- I intensely dislike reality shows because they show a false reality and standard that people strive to emulate and will never be able to meet.
- Traveling is not really a big passion of mine, but I’d like to visit Italy and eat my way through it. I imagine buying one ticket to go there and two tickets for the return trip because I will take-up two seats. Hey, it’s all carbs there (or at least it would be for me).
- I also want to drink coffee and eat a chocolate croissant at a sidewalk cafe in Paris while I pretend to write my book. I would look very chic in my boldly printed scarf and wear Chanel No 5. To be fair, I could do this in California, but it wouldn’t be as cool.
- I also realize that my travel dreams all involve food. I’m okay with this.
- I am scared of heights. Getting on a step-ladder makes me nervous but I love flying.
- I get car sick when I am not the driver; I get lost whenever I drive somewhere new.
- My apartment is a mess. I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, and I’m only 95% sure that I put on clean underwear. Also I really need to do some laundry because I am running out of clean underwear.
- I am vindictive, cruel, selfish, judgmental, funny, protective, strong and sincere.
- I have at least 6 white hairs and my hair is thinning. This makes me very unhappy.
- I am closing in on 41 years. I’m okay with this. Mostly.
- I have been subjected to blatant racism and prejudice. It has shocked me every time because I was unprepared. I don’t understand why the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes matters.
- My hands, feet and ears are small. My belly, thighs and butt are not. I’m working on this.
- I am a very private person, and blogging goes against my very nature to internalize everything. I also crave connection and want to stop pretending everything is perfect. Because it’s not and that’s okay.
- I believe in love. I haven’t found it yet but will some day.
- I look at the world through rose-tinted glasses and sometimes believe in six impossible things before breakfast. Bonus points if you know who I borrowed this from and also believe in the impossible.
- I am a naive, sheltered, spoiled, generous, creative, a free spirit, sly, manipulative, sweet, humble and shy.
- I believe in feeling passionate about what you do, wholehearted living and being real.
The Oscar in the Unreal World Goes to …
Me. For my fabulous portrayal of unreal me. I captured my essence so well. A truly breath-taking performance of amazing caliber … and that’s a bunch of crap. I somehow managed to mold myself into a square that got squeezed into a circle. While I’ve managed to break free of the chains that held me back and down, there is still much work to be done.
Now I need to undo all the kinks, including all the false beliefs I’ve held for so long about myself and the world at-large, and remake myself. The above list is a good start at defining me, but it is only the beginning. Now the hard part begins … figuring out who I really am and what I’m truly made of.
It’s also kind of exciting.
I told you who I am, so now it’s your turn to tell me something about yourself. Were you ever stuck living in the Unreal World? How did you get out?
Jenn @ Optimization, Actually says
I don’t think I ever subscribed to the false belief that everyone else’s life was perfect because their online life was perfect. I know my own online persona (more on Facebook, than on the blog – I’m pretty honest on the blog) is more roses and sunshine, but that’s because the ugly stuff is so intensely private. I don’t want to throw it out there for all my family and friends to pry through. For whatever reason, I’m perfectly fine doing this on the blog, but I feel like I get to explain the whole picture there, vs a one-liner on Facebook that really wouldn’t do it justice.
That being said, I totally understand how people can fall prey to this! And I’m not a huge fan of posting millions of happy selfies with big fake smiles. Some of my friends will spend more time documenting a night out than actually enjoying it, and then when I see those pictures later, all I can think of is how fake it all is.
I love your honest assessment of yourself, virtues and flaws. I think defining ourselves is hard, because it’s hard to be honest with yourself but also to not be too hard on yourself, AND because we’re constantly changing. But as long as you get some enjoyment out of the journey of self discovery then it’s totally worth the time you spend trying to put it into words! I actually might steal this idea and do a post like, “The side of me you don’t see” or something like that.
It’s awesome that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole and compare yourself to others based upon the things they share. Some days I’m very good at keeping my perspective and other times, down the rabbit hole I go and I compare. And compare. And I don’t stack up. I do agree wholeheartedly that there are absolutely things (both good and bad) that are meant to be private and shared with only a select few. What I sometimes forget (and suspect others do too) is that people are understandably curating what they share, which can make their lives appear perfect, even though they have their fair share of struggles too. Of course, there are some people who intentionally pretend their lives are perfect because they want people to be jealous. It is hard to be honest with yourself without being too hard on yourself, especially when you’re examining flaws. It’s definitely a balance that I’m trying to find. I want to be comfortable in my own skin, which I have not been, but I’m getting there.
Oh my gosh, I LOVE this post!! I love your honest assessments of yourself and I can totally relate to the part where you said you are a private person and blogging goes against your very nature to internalize. *raises hand slowly* Yup, that’s me too.
Hey we can go to Italy together and EAT ALL THE FOOD!! 🙂
I swear Mackenzie, you and I are twinsies. 🙂 It is not easy for me to peel back the layers privately and even harder to do some publicly, but doing so has been so beneficial at the same time. Almost every post I resist my urge to share, then I must overcome my resistance. Some day I hope my resistance fades away! And yes, let’s go to Italy together and eat our way through it!
Jana @ Jana Says says
I don’t even know how to respond properly to this post. I love it, and I love you for your awesomeness and amazing honesty.
Re: you being a writer. Let’s make that happen. I have an offer for you. Also, I’ll never be a writer of literature with a capital “L” either but that’s okay. It’s okay for you, too.
Thank you, Jana! These types of posts are hard for me, but it gets a bit easier every time I do it. Plus, the fact that I get such great support helps and makes me wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. 🙂
When I first started to think about writing, I had few friends that were, well…. book snobs. There is definitely nothing wrong with having a preference for literature with a capital “L” but that is not what is inside me, which like you said, is okay. I’m finally coming to terms with that! Also, I did send you an email, although it was from my personal email address, which is a verizon.net address.
i am with you on the cats. and i don’t think anyone is ever prepared for racism and prejudice, but don’t let idiots like that get you down. it’s their problem they are horrible people, not yours.
i have been to rome and i would love to go back to italy and eat my way through it as well. i’d go back to paris just for the pastries… yum! but italy for sure, the food was amazing.
girl, write your book!!! you will be amazing to some and awful to others. no-one in this world can write a book that pleases everyone. NO-ONE. so just do you.
Yay! Another cat lover! People think I’m weird because they will tell me their cat doesn’t like anyone but them and I will spend hours trying to coax their cat from wherever he or she is hiding. What always catches me unprepared is the people who say terrible things are often people I wouldn’t suspect. That somehow makes it much more painful. There are plenty of great sights to see in Italy, but I’m pretty sure all I would care about is the food, glorious food when I eventually get there. People will ask me about the places I visited and I’d only be able to tell them about the food I ate!
I can be a real people pleaser so there was a big part of me (and this part still does exist) that was terrified about bad reviews. But like you said, no book is immune to bad reviews and beloved by 100%. It’s just not possible. Thanks for the support; I truly appreciate it. And you’re right – I just gotta do me!
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
I think even when you think you’re prepared for something as ugly as racism, prejudice, or sexism, you’re really not. It’s too ugly to prepare for.
I’ve never thought anyone’s life was perfect because they showed all good stuff on social media…I thought they just knew the line of what is appropriate to share on the Internet. I don’t think private things belong on Facebook.
Very true – it’s really hard to prepare for something so ugly. Its a real slap in the face, especially when it comes from people you don’t realize feel that way.
I agree that private things really don’t belong on Facebook. It’s good that you, like Jenn, don’t go down the rabbit hole, and I’m looking forward to the day that no longer happens to me. I’m definitely more aware of my tendency to compare, which helps too.
Wow. I absolutely love this post and can relate to it in so many ways. Since you opened yourself up to me, I will tell you about a time I was living in an “Unreal World”.
I was engaged and ultimately married a man that I knew I shouldn’t. He was kind and loyal and unique and passionate. I convinced myself that he was full of so many “good” traits that I “needed” to love him. As I was convincing myself, I was also trying to convince others how in love we were. I wasn’t being real. It crashed and burned horribly. I learned a huge amount of lessons from this time in my life.
Thank you for sharing that with me. Erin. I have had friends with similar experiences and it is not easy. There can be so much pressure and fake-ness around marriage and love. I used to have a very Pollyanna viewpoint of both and now being older and wiser, I realize that real love/marriage doesn’t mean you don’t fight but that you argue and disagree while still staying in love. That it can be messy and hard and still be really amazing.
Tonya@Budget and the Beach says
Great post Tanya! It’s nice to see people being so open and honest and like most human beings, you seem to vacillate between several personality extremes, depending on the situation? I found that once I turned 40, I started shedding those social norms of who I “should” be. It’s pretty liberating, but still it’s sometimes scary. Part of me wishes I was some girly girl who just loves looking hot all the time and behaved in a way that made me more attractive to me. But I’m the weird funny girl who occasionally loves to look pretty, but mostly I love my jeans, hoodies, and flip flops, and like to avoid makeup, mainly because I’m flat out lazy about it. I’m glad funny women have been making a mark on mainstream society as well, like Tiny Fey, Amy P, Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig and Amy Schumer (I probably butchered half their spellings).
You’re spot-on, Tonya – depending on the situation, I can go from one extreme to the other, which is definitely something that I am working on. I turned 40 last year and it has made a difference after I got over my how can I be 40 tantrum. There just comes a point where enough is enough and 40 seems to be the number where that change starts to happen.
One thing I am trying to get better about is actually looking more put together. What I want my style to be today is probably similar to yours, casual but cute, but working from home has made me pretty lazy with my appearance. I feel like looking sloppy isn’t helping me feel good about myself. I don’t want to wear make-up or work clothes at home but just feel more put together if that makes sense. And I’m so glad that funny, smart women are starting to be more valued and appreciated it too because they are the women that I can relate to. I hope more women, young and old, start to hold them up as people to emulate versus all those celebrities with good looks but little substance.
I love this post and your honesty and courage! Thank you so much for sharing this with your blog readers (I started to say ‘followers’ but that felt kind of cult-like, in the ‘groupie’ sense… not creepy sense).
I have always admired you with your writing abilities and for the number of years that you have had your blog “Eat Laugh Purr” and now look at you with TWO blogs (cuz one just wasn’t enough!). You go girl! You are amazing AND you post so regularly!
I applaud you for following your dreams, making them happen (picking up and moving to Sunny LA where you can wear your flip flops year-round) and also for writing about your depression and sharing that with the world. You will help so many people by talking about it and not keeping it a secret or ‘to yourself’. Kudos!
I love this line: “It’s time to shed my old skin, that was never really mine, and live in the real world as me with all my glorious imperfections, flaws and also very real dreams, hopes and aspirations.”
You inspire me to not compare my insides to other people’s outsides and to be grateful for what I do have, especially when it “looks” like others have it so good! Miss you tons, my friend!
P.S. Please keep writing, blogging and sharing who you are with the world! You are making it a better place to live in.
Awwww … Sunny, you’re going to make me cry. Thank you for your kind words and your support. Your friendship means the world to me. I still remember when we went to that writing camp together. Have you taken any more writing classes? It’s been a long time since I’ve ventured into one and should probably check some out. I sometimes feel as though my move to LA was the last, real brave thing I did and afterwards I retreated back into my shell. I need to come out and embrace the wild. I am so guilty of thinking other people have perfect lives too, but everyone has “stuff” and heartache. And it’s not wrong or bad to have stuff either. It’s called living. Thank you for being a great cheerleader and friend. You are an amazing person too and I’m so glad Kathi was smart enough to hire both of us. LOL!