Elle Kay, you say, “90% of my time is spent in the wrong place with the wrong people doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons.”
At the moment you see this bottom line, you’ve unlocked unlimited freedom, whether you’ve acted on it or not.
When I finally hit that point of “Nothing could be worse than this constant fakery. Why not shut it off and see what happens?” my entire world turned upside down.
I was intensely bored by most of the people I knew, so I cut them out of my life. I’d sit at parties with my resting bitchface — and if someone came over and said, “You don’t look like you’re having fun,” I’d look ‘em in the eye and say, “I’m not. This party is stupid. I’d rather be sitting in a hot bath with a neat bourbon and a good book.” More often than not, that’d start some banter, and suddenly I’d find myself having an honest conversation with a person I could actually relate to. I never faked a smile. People ate it up.
I let my high-standards flag fly, and found myself welcomed into more discriminating social strata (for better or worse). I discovered I had a brutally dark sense of humor and a quick sharp tongue, and a surprising number of people loved both those things when I used them well.
I’d been faking, you see, because I was afraid. Not just afraid of being judged, but — on a much deeper level — afraid that I might get pulled into a true and honest conversation with someone I didn’t trust. Once I started having those conversations, the fear started to fade.
That’s when I decided to take the game to the next level. Here’s the point in the story where I generally lose people (for practical reasons and/or emotional ones), but let me just show you how far this can go.
I hated my job, so I told my boss the whole truth and walked out. I was bored with life in L.A., so I bought a ticket to Istanbul and put up all my stuff for sale on Craigslist. I threw a party for everyone who wanted to say goodbye, and told them I was probably never coming back.
Something about the reality of this decision put all my social interactions on a whole different wavelength. People I barely knew broke down in tears and told me their secrets. Women who’d brushed me off before started looking at me in a very strange way, as if they were seeing me in 3-D for the first time. For a few weeks, every moment was in ultra high definition, with the color saturation cranked all the way up.
I’ve spent the last two years backpacking across Europe and the Balkans, writing articles for whoever will buy them, crashing on any couch that’ll have me, or treating myself to comfy hotels and flats during the good months. I’ve walked in ghettos filled with Syrian refugees. I’ve met Nobel prize winners. I’ve been threatened by Turkish cab drivers. I’ve swum with bioluminescent plankton. I’ve cliff-dived. I’ve spent huge swaths of time just walking alone and thinking.
I’m not saying all this as a Tony Robbins “actualize your dreams” screed. Are you kidding me? Why would I do that. I’m not asking anyone to do trust falls. No; I’m saying all this because, as I hope you can see by now, I relate very strongly to what you’re saying. I’ve been in that place, where 90 percent of everything in my life was forced and fake.
And I’m saying, stay with that realization. Engrave it on a block and tie it around your head like a tefillin. When you crave a real moment, say something true and see what happens. When you encounter magic, note down the spell and cast it yourself when things get dull. When you brush against someone and strike a spark, throw some wood on that fire and get a blaze going.
This summer I went to the ruins of Pompeii, where they have a big shrine filled with the charred bodies of ancient Romans. I stood there staring at what used to be lovers, parents and children, clutching each other tightly as the fire came. I felt a like a voyeur, a pornographer. This was not, I thought, how these people would have wanted to be seen.
Then I walked out into the sunlight and sat on the green grass and ate a strawberry gelato, and it was the best damn strawberry gelato I ever had.
Life is too short for things that aren’t true.