The Art of Mirriam Neal

//thoughts on balance + honesty

I realized, soon into my semi-hiatus, that I wasn’t taking a break from the internet so much as my internet persona. The experiment has shed light on several areas of personal interest to me, but one of the most prevalent things the semi-hiatus has shown me is how little people actually know me. Even those I have known for years have shown, as I stepped away from my perceived ‘image,’ that they know a vague idea of me but do not actually, in fact, know who I am.

And this is largely nobody’s fault but mine, if indeed it is a ‘fault.’ I’ve been blogging since I was thirteen – through some of my most formative years, and while I wouldn’t trade that for anything, the experience has given me a kind of ‘split personality,’ a division between myself and my internet alter-ego. As I grew older, I developed a sense of responsibility toward maintaining my persona, and respecting the boundary between my real self and my perceived self. This is a tricky thing, as I earnestly try to be as genuine as possible in both areas. It’s asking a paradox of myself, and this paradox places a wall between myself and most other people.

For the most part, this is okay with me. I’m not the kind of person who can handle more than a few extremely close friends (read: two). Even those I count as my good friends know very little about me. Occasionally people express interest in becoming close with me, and my automatic response is ‘Sure!’ but I’ve discovered that’s not actually what I want. It leads to spreading myself far too thin, and I simply can’t maintain that level of personal intimacy with many people.

People make statements about knowing me well, and each time I feel a slight pang of guilt, because I’ve allowed them to think it’s true. It doesn’t happen intentionally. I never wake up with the thought, ‘Today I’m going to think they really know who I am while actually keeping myself from them.’ It simply happens, because I have created a persona outside of myself. I enjoy having this persona for on very simple reason: I often receive messages from people telling me how encouraging or uplifting that persona is to them. It helps people. I help people, or I brighten their day, or I give them something to think about. It’s what I do. But it is not always who I am.

My persona enjoys attention and is always up for a conversation with anyone. My persona is pretty pictures or dolled-up selfies, sketches or funny anecdotes from the day. People assume I’m extroverted, a social butterfly.

Me? I hate being the center of attention. I’ve been going through a little-to-no makeup phase during my semi-hiatus, which means selfies are much less forthcoming. My life is not all funny anecdotes – and while I laugh often, I also cry often. I have a huge sense of humor, but wrapped inside that sense of humor is a grave and serious person that many people don’t see, because I don’t let many people see it. I’m intensely introverted and spend more time reading history or behavioral psychology than I do reading fiction.

This separation of my two selves is something I’ve given much thought to over the past month, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. The line, however, tends to grow so blurred occasionally that I’m not sure where I stop and my persona begins, and during my ‘time away’ I’m slowly re-building that line so I can take care of them both without the stress of confusion and self-identity theft. I’m re-learning not to let my persona rob me of myself, and I’m realizing I need to do this at least once a year, possibly twice. Extracting one from the other has proven borderline excruciating and has kept me up nights, attempting to untangle the knots I’ve accidentally created.

Can I be genuine without showing all of myself? I think so. Can I upkeep a persona that is me, but only part of me? I think so. And I’m okay with that – in fact, should I ever achieve a fluid balance between the two, I will be extremely happy. But for now, I will continue to strive for honesty and balance, and I would like you to know that I care about you. Me. Myself. I care about you, but I cannot be all of myself with you.

So here’s to balance, honesty, and a continual reach for the two.

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