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When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to talk about how we’d one day be “real people”. “Real people” had friends, wore stylish clothes, listened to popular music, had furniture and decor that matched, drove in a nice car, well … all those things we had seen in a J.C Penney’s catalog. That catalog was our dream world. The people in that catalog looked “normal”.

We weren’t normal and we knew it. But then, we were supposed to like being abnormal, because being normal was wrong. Normal people were “of the world”, and we were not supposed to look or act like the world. If you’ve come from a similar background you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you wanted to be a “real person” too.

One of my first memories of feeling like a “real person” is from my first year of marriage. For my birthday, my husband bought me two curio cabinets. They were so beautiful! They had glass doors framed in wood, and shiny glass shelves. Mirrors lined the back, ready to reflect all the beautiful stuff I would place inside. I was a “real person”. My living room would look so classy. I could entertain with pride.

I’m looking back now and wondering why something like this was so important to me. Why did I long so strongly for beautiful things? I wasn’t materialistic or hard to please, but for some reason these little pieces of furniture meant the world to me.

Maybe part of it had to do with having very little while growing up. My family was poor. Almost everything we had was second-hand and mismatched. We couldn’t afford nicer things. So we dreamed. We dreamed of one day being “real people”.

To me, “real people” had freedom. Freedom to express themselves, to experience new things, have nice things … explore the “world”. “Real people” were happy and serene. They had nice bedrooms and uncluttered living rooms. “Real people” had everything perfect.

The concept of “real people” is something I laugh at now. My husband and I even joke about being “real people”. When we bought our first car, we playfully stated, “We’re real people now.” When we got an Xbox, we again became “real people”.

Funny thing is … all the furniture in my house (except those two cabinets) is second-hand and mismatched. My clothes come from resale shops and garage sales. My house looks cluttered and lived in. But you know what?

I’m a real person. But being a real person isn’t what I thought it was.

Throughout my childhood I was stifled. I never felt like I could really be me. It is only in recent years that I have begun to discover the real person locked deep inside.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about real people. Real people aren’t perfect. Real people don’t have it all together. Real people have messy houses, and messy lives. Real people are poor, rich and everything in between. Real people are the people who aren’t afraid to be who they really are.

Being a real person is about honesty, not perfection. I’m finding the real me. I’m no longer the brainwashed, fake person I used to be.

But then … I didn’t think I was fake. I just knew I wasn’t real.

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3 thoughts on “Coming to be real

  1. this post reminds me of an excerpt from a child’s book that came to mean a lot to me:

    “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

    “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

    “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

    “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

    “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

    “I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

    “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

    ~ the velveteen rabbit

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