I’ve Always Wanted To Be Someone Else


All my life, I’ve wanted to be someone else. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that I’ve always loathed myself and the physical body and little bubble of a world I inhabit (though I sometimes have). I’ve just always wanted to know what it’s like to be other people. Even if only for a day. See new worlds. Feel their emotions, think their thoughts. See how their day-to-day life pans out. It’s part of the reason why I enjoy reading so much. Stories allow you to be other people for a little while, and that’s unspeakably fantastic. In fact, the older I grow, the more it has morphed from a simple little wistful thought, a fancy that sometimes flutters and lands on my mind like a wayward butterfly and flies away a moment later, into a deeper yearning. I want so desperately to know what it’s like to be other people. I’ve even wished I could transform myself into a fly and spy on the private lives of people I’m particularly interested in, though I do realize this borders on creepy stalking. But I’m just interested! I’m just so, so curious! Perhaps it’s an idealistic form of nosiness, but I don’t feel any shame for it. I want to feel the pain and joy and shame and horror and everything in between of others. Unfortunately I do not possess the ability to transplant myself into other people’s bodies, and the reality of it would probably be rather intrusive anyway, so instead, I’ve resorted to imagination.

I imagine what it is like to be a farm girl growing up in a beautiful, pastoral setting, with big strong arms from fetching buckets of water and milking cows and carrying logs, and feeling a secret delight at the attentions from a nearby handsome station hand. To wake up to the crow of a rooster, and drink milk thick and creamy with froth at breakfast, and go to sleep with the pattering feet of the animals outside the window.

I imagine what it is like to be a lonely businessman in Tokyo, in his lavish penthouse, without anyone to share the delights of wealth with, sipping a glass of expensive wine and peering out from the panoramic windows at the glittering and rushing city below. To feel what it is like for everything to sparkle, but nothing to truly glow. A great, heavy-on-the-heart sort of loneliness.

I imagine what it was like to be a concubine living in an Imperial Palace. The gnarled knot of hidden animosities among the woman, the dangerous path one treads between favor and disfavor, the fumbling moves of the Emperor when he calls the women to his bedchamber at night. The bowing, the tension, the vibrant gowns and headpieces, the fragrant ponds of lily pads.

I imagine what it is like to be a struggling artist living in a poky little garret that overlooks the murky Thames river in London. The ashen clusters of cigarettes on the chipped wooden table, the uncomfortable lowness of the ceiling, the rats that scurry in the walls, and how the place looks at night, lit with a single candle, a twinkling haven in which I can paint or draw or read to my heart’s content.

I imagine what it is like to live as a drug addict, prowling through the streets at night, chest tight with need for the next fix, fingers constantly trembling and eyes bloodshot, hating yourself for who you have become but unable to stop. Hating yourself for stealing from your family, your friends, hating the world, and wanting to escape the world doing something that makes you hate yourself. The great swathes of misery interspersing the brief peppering of ecstasies. A dark, hallowed, broken world. A sad world.

I imagine what it was like to be a citizen of Ancient Egypt, watching as the men hauled the great stone blocks up the sides of the pyramids, bartering for dates and meat, feeling the desert sun on my face and the scratchy, desert wind riffling through my clothes. To bow and pray to the Gods, and watch in awe as the red sun rose each morning like a great eye, and think Ra! Ra!

I imagine what it was (or maybe is? Do they still have bell ringers?) like to be a bell ringer like Quasimodo, scrambling up the sides of buildings and swinging like a pendulum to set the bells a-ringing, and hearing the thunderous peals shake my very teeth and bones. To know that the whole city can hear the sounds I put into motion, to see the birds scatter into the air at the noise I made, and to cry and laugh and scream with it all.

I imagine what it is like to be a trapeze artist at a circus. To spend days leaping and contorting in the air, like a magical twisting bird, and come back to a cozy, red little caravan and sleep until the next day of flight. To eat lunch with all the other circus folk, still in their costumes, around the fireplace. To be on the move, all the time, and watching from the door of your caravan as the landscape trundles past on these journeys, especially at night when the moon rises round and white and high in the sky, bathing the rough terrain silver.

I imagine what is like to be a child like Oliver growing up in a hard, cold orphanage, scraping your spoons at the bottom of tin bowls, sleeping in cramped beds piled with dirty sheets, and that feeling of grey abandonment when you see children out with their families and concocting wonderful, beautiful parents in your mind late at night when you can’t sleep.

I imagine what it is like to be a girl at boarding school, and tussling with all the horrors of puberty and boys and classes and pinch-mouthed headmistresses. To cry silently in your pillow at night so no-one hears, and having that one true friend who makes it living less miserable.

I don’t know. Everything. It may seem childish to some people, but I imagine myself as birds, mythical creatures, aliens, futuristic cyborgs, all the characters in the books I have loved, as lonely vampires (I tend to like lonely and suffering and misunderstood characters an awful lot), as flowers, as rundown and lonely houses (There is certainly a running theme here), as abandoned toys, the moon, the sun, angels, Mother Nature. You get the drift. I don’t know. I just felt like sharing this enthusiasm. To see the clouds touched with light, feel the wet warmth of blood in my mouth that is both delicious and repulsive, experience the flattening crumpling pain of being trod upon…I don’t know.

It’s just so wonderful, so magical, so lovely. I want to know what it’s like to be everyone, to hear all the stories, live all the lives. And I suppose, seeing as we are all each other, no matter who are right now or the time period, perhaps we have experienced all of these, perhaps even as organisms in other worlds or planets or universes, only it’s locked away beneath the layers of pre-birth consciousness, only it’s inaccessible, and the imagination is a sort of key to unlocking all these other lives, these lives who were yours, if only briefly, if only for one daydream, one night. I quite like that.


12 thoughts on “I’ve Always Wanted To Be Someone Else

  1. I genuinely wish with all my heart I could be you! The way you perceive every detail so uniquely and write so beautifully… damn, I wish I could be you for a lifetime. 😦

    • That’s certainly the first time anyone has said that to me. I’ve never considered myself anyone worth being. Your comment touched me and made me see myself in a different way, and I thank you for that. But I always want you to be happy with yourself. And, in a way, you are me, we are each other, only we can experience life one at a time. Find the jewels in your own existence and polish them until they shine. That is all one can do, and should do. Play your part in the dance and then leave the stage, knowing you added to its beauty with that twirl or leap. You are perfectly wonderful as you are.

  2. I imagine that your depth of empathy for people must be almost overwhelming, because when one can imagine being another person, it creates a great feeling of empathy towards people. As hard as it is, and believe me I know, we should embrace our gift, although I imagine yours is much stronger. Do you ever get angry, and let it out at someone, then feel horrible guilt? My Mom is 91 years old, has always been emotionally abusive towards me (although I rationalize it away), and I am her sole caretaker. Sometimes I just can’t handle it, and I lash out at her, I get really really angry, and yell at her. Once I calm down, my guilt overtakes me, and I call and apologize, even when I’m right. Only because I hate the way I know I made her feel. I hate that about myself.

    • I do have explosions of anger, and they do tend to be a violent stream of words that target the other person’s soft spots. That’s a dark side of sensitivity – you sometimes know where it hurts most for others. I wish I could embrace it, I wish I could even call it a gift, but it is has caused me nothing but pain and sorrow in the real world. It’s just fun for imagining, I think.

      • I don’t know how old you are, but you speak of being in school, so I imagine it is either high school or college. I just want to let you know that high school was the hardest part of this INFP’s life, especially without emotional support from my mom. It does get easier, but I still hope you send in some of your writing to be published, because I don’t want to see you have the same fate I did..working in a job where you feel very alienated from everyone you work with. That is hard also, but not even close to the horror of high school.

      • School is disgusting. I just spent ten seconds trying to come up with a bad enough adjective. This was the closest I could get. I can’t stand rules or regulations or authorities and people who dictate learning, chop it up into little squares to feed to you, and then ask you to vomit it all back up come exams. No freedom, no exploration, no learning for the sake of learning, the pure, no wading through knowledge with joy. It’s disgusting, disgusting, disgusting.

      • I promise, it does get better. The funny thing is the most popular people in your school are having their “glory days” now. They will always live for that one touchdown or one play, or award, or whatever. As INFP’s, we have to live our own path, which is impossible in school (especially high school, the worst), and our glory days are every day AFTER high school. While it isn’t perfect, life is much better. Have you thought about home schooling? Would your parent(s) be willing? It worked well for my INTJ son, and started in 8th grade and finished through 12th grade in 6 months. If you’re curious, let me know, and I can offer a few suggestions. : )

      • Unfortunately, by now, I think it’s a little too late for me to be homeschooled. And my mother was and still is hardly one to propose or execute such a task – she is an immigrant, so her English is very, very limited. She believes in education, and would balk at the idea of not attending a proper school. Sometimes, when I think about the wonderful childhood I might have led if I’d been homeschooled and allowed to run loose in a library every day rather than sit in a classroom, wanting to tear my eyes out, I feel like screaming with regret. But the past is past, and I can only work with the time I have now. Thank you for offering, though! 🙂 Is life really better? I ask this out of pure curiosity – after being scarred in the early years, I’m afraid of the flesh being stripped off my bones once I’m tossed into the ”real world”.

      • It does get better, really, honestly. Once you are out of school you will have a bit more control over your life. But, and it’s kind of a BIG but, you seriously need to take a chance on your writing. You have the most amazing gift, and this is what you need to pursue. I worked for 17 years at my local police department, I actually loved what I did, because most of my duties were done alone and when I got a new assignment I first learned how it was supposed to be done, or how it was done since the beginning of time (This was between the years of 1983 and 2001, where technology was not so advanced), and then I took it and in a sense re-wrote the rules. The end was the same, I got everything done that I was supposed to, but I had the freedom to do it my way. I loved it. My favorite part was working with fingerprints of the deceased. I know that sounds horrid, but it was actually quite fascinating, and perfect for my INFP personality. The problems I had at work was following the rules imposed by my “superiors”. I was constantly getting in trouble (at least twice a week for 17 years!!) for my appearance. My naturally curly, frizzy hair was always a problem, and I never dressed like they wanted me to. I hated being told what to do, none of it made any sense to me. Why did I have to wear heels when I worked where no one saw me? Why did I have to wear makeup? I hated it. Even with that, I preferred the freedom over high school. I even returned to college when I was 31 years old and maintained a 4.0 GPA, because my major was Sociology, and I was fascinated by it. Being able to write papers on whatever subject I chose was a god-send. I never got my degree, I dropped out in my 3rd year, sometimes I regret it, but most of the time, I don’t.

        You have way too much talent with words to be stuck in a corporate world, I want to sneak in your house and steal your beautiful words and make them public to the world. You deserve so much better than a corporate lifestyle.

        But with all that said, you will enjoy the freedom of being yourself…education is important, I told you that my son has two PhD’s and he is much more successful than I ever have been, but he is an INTJ, he is money driven and I respect that. We are not, we are passionate people. I hold you dear to my heart, I hope beyond hope that you find what you love in this world. : )

      • Thank you! You are lovely! And so kind! I feel like weeping! But, yes, I will. I will do it. I will follow my heart, even though everyone tells you not to and the thought makes me want to scream in fear. I do enjoy freedom – I loathe the idea of going to university and being cooped up in a classroom with at least another four years and then going on to be cooped up in an office for the rest of my life. It’s just different cages. Unfortunately, my mother has other ideas, and would rather disown me than see me not go on to higher education and get a ‘steady’ job, but we’ll see how that pans out. It is terrifying, and I’m riddled with self-doubt, but I will. I must. Thank you, thank you, and I cast upon you a thousand blessings.

  3. Last night as I lay in bed, I was thinking how I was commenting way too much on your blog, feeling such anxiety that I am forcing you to read everything I write and taking up your precious time, since you are kind enough to take out the time to answer, and I promised myself not to be such a horrible nag. I also had a panic attack that someone might read my own blog, so I got out of bed and deleted my blog and made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to bother you so much, I would just read what you write and ‘like’ everything that resonated with me. But then I read your comment and knew that I would have to tell you a quick story. I was very close to my father. He died in 2010, and it was the darkest day of my life. My whole world turned upside down, and here it is four years later, and I am no more over his death than I was the day he died. When he was alive, we hardly ever fought. When my son was 13, I told my parents that I was going to take him out of public school and give him home schooling, my father promised me that if I did that he would disown me and my son. I thought about it, how miserable my child was, he was bullied horribly, and I knew that if I didn’t get him out of school, he would be scarred for life. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine one day without my wonderful father, laughing with him, him being my rock. Well, I took my son out of school and he thrived, and my dad continued our relationship as if nothing had happened. Now, I’m not saying that your mom will not disown you, or whatever, I’m just saying that sometimes we have to make the right choices for ourselves. I think going to college is important, and I’m glad my son went. My husband never went, and he has been unemployed for two years now, with no end in sight. On the other hand, going to college RIGHT after high school isn’t necessary, there are people who take time off to find out what their path is..

    I know, I know, it’s tough. I think our personalities have a lot to do with which path we should take, my son, the INTJ (I think I mentioned that he refuses to take the test, but it is so painfully obvious that he is INTJ, he doesn’t need to take it) was a college professor, perfect for his personality…got tired of it, went into finance research, and guess what??? He teaches at community college! It’s in his blood…As an INTJ, he has the confidence he needs to do what is right for him. Not us, we are a little more confused and unsure of ourselves.

    PS. Love what you wrote about the bus..wow! You could turn that easily into a short story (OK nagging again, lol). Hugs to you, always…

    • Thank you! You are never an imposition. I’m very sorry if I don’t reply right away, but I try to reply to every comment anyone makes on my blog. Thank you for the encouragement. I realize in the end it is my own life, and I walk it alone, and I alone have to deal with its miseries and joys. Thank you, and lots of hugs to you too!

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