I wonder sometimes if I’m a copycat.
I’m not really sure when this all started, but I guess the earliest manifestation of my copycatness was as a child. I loved art and drawing, but I could never create anything that was truly, originally my own. My best works of art were ones I had copied from someone else, imitating their talents down to the very last etch.
Then as a teenager, I struggled with confidence and self-esteem (as all teens do). I worried that I was too quiet, too shy, too boring, too fat, too smart, or not smart enough.
I used to watch shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and ALIAS starring Jennifer Garner. Buffey and Sydney Bristow were my heros. They were beautiful, strong, ultra intelligent, and I wanted to be like them.
So I tried. Not really in the most obvious or literal sense. I didn’t try to fight vampires or become a spy or anything. But in my most trying moments, I would tell myself to breathe.
“You’re not Gelaine. You’re Sydney Bristow,” I would say in my head. And that would make me feel slightly better.
As though I was stronger. As though my wobbly two feet were being propped by a third or fourth leg that was someone else’s.
Just like I don’t know how it started, I don’t know when it all ended.
I remember going to Peru in 2010. It was after my second year of university, and I had gone through a big crisis of life. I was still studying animal biology at the time, thinking I wanted to be a vet, but also knowing all the while I would never become one.
I had to escape from my life. I had to get out of my head and go somewhere else to become someone else.
So I ran off to Peru. Paid a shit ton of money to volunteer in the Amazon Rainforest where I had no internet access, no outside world.
Just me and my inner voices.
I disappeared trying to escape who I was, but the interesting thing is that I found myself in that jungle. Without even realizing it, I stopped channelling everyone else and I began to channel me.
It was the first time I realized my life was better than a TV show. That I was better than a fictional character, because I was here – I was real flesh and bone and sinew.
I was enough. I am enough. And I don’t need to hide behind someone else to make it.