A short article about truth and fiction by Kate Isabella.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” -Mark Twain.
High school is full of fiction. The longer you spend there, the better you get at hiding things, whether it be from teachers, parents, friends or even yourself.
My final year of high school will finish in December of this year, but the magazine committee is already up and running, and with this comes senior photos. “Bring in a prop to signify who YOU are as a person. This can be something that you love like your favourite earrings or your phone or a stuffed toy. Whatever you want!” Along with our photo we have either a ‘Known for:’ and a ‘Most likely to:’ or a ‘Known for:’ and a quote of our choosing. Before we go out into the world, we’re being asked to define ourselves one last time.
Our Margins mag editor Nicole sent all the writers an email about truth, May’s theme. In it she said that truth is liberating but that it also turns false ideas upside down. I’ve perpetrated many false ideas during my time at high school, just like anyone else. They weren’t there right from the beginning but progressed along the way. With 14 came the beginning of my struggles with anxiety and depression and with 16 my beginning to understand my queerness. Now, these are both things I live with day to day and am content with; they are huge parts of me and influence how I see the world. But they are also both things I am forced to hide.
If I were to bring in an accurate prop for my picture, I’d bring my anti-depressants, my journals full of poetry and tears and probably write “QUEER” on my forehead. I’d be ‘Most likely to have a breakthrough after years of therapy and hopefully one day get a girlfriend’ and ‘Known for having anxiety attacks in the school bathrooms.’ My quote would be from author Melissa Broder “Worried about death and my hair at the same time.” It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but it’s real, like me and my experiences. I know that I shouldn’t define myself as a mentally ill person, because I am more than that, but I am those things in spite of my mental illness which just makes them that more special.
Disclosing these things in the year book probably isn’t necessary. But when I look back on high school, those are the things I will remember, and this is the person my high school experience has turned me into. Things that a large portion of my friends have no idea of. They’ve never been things I’ve been comfortable talking about. I have the friends that know everything and are going through the same things, but then there are the people I’ve been friends with from 13 to 18 who have no idea. If I were to really show who I was as a person, these things would show. Loud and proud. So would my passion for Taylor Swift, another thing that has to be hush hush at my all girls school. Apparently liking Tay isn’t feminist so therefore I can’t have my quote be “Shake it off!”, no matter how much that song helped me and brought me back to life.
There’s always that pull to just say “fuck it.” Tell everyone anything and everything. Talk to the bus driver about my dreams and what I think they might mean. Tell the cashier at the supermarket about my fears of death. Let the postman know about what my psychologist said last session that made me laugh. But alas, we live in a culture with social interaction built on lies or misinformation and this can be hard to break out off.
Being honest always comes at a price, but so does keeping things to yourself. So unfortunately either way you lose. Telling the truth is healthy and freeing but can also be very painful or dangerous. From a young age we’re told, “Honesty is the best policy” but that rule doesn’t always apply.
I’m still going to say “Hi!” to that girl at school I can’t stand, I’m still going to say I had a medical appointment on my late slip for school when in reality I was having a shower, I’m still going to tell my dad I’m doing school work rather than writing for this very magazine. Lying makes life bearable. It stops people asking questions or making things more difficult than they already are.
That said, there is a danger in lying about who you are. Not that you’re actually lying; you’re protecting yourself. But the longer you have to do this, the more you start to believe the false ideas about yourself that you project to the rest of the world. Lying becomes a survival instinct. You stop thinking. The longer that goes on, the harder it can be to break from the clay mold you’ve build yourself.
So, what to do? Lie? Protect yourself? Tell the truth?
All of the above.
The best thing to do when you feel yourself drowning in your truth is to work to find a space where you can be honest. It could be online, with others, in a journal; the important thing is you’re expressing yourself rather than repressing yourself. In counseling I get to be honest about my mental health, with certain friends and at our school’s Queer Straight Alliance I can be myself without any questions asked, and in writing for this online magazine I can fully give myself over to the page I’m writing on. It can be hard at first to find that balance, but once you do, it’s worth everything in the world.