“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts…” –William Shakespeare
The distance between our public persona and our private selves defines our lives and relationships in ways that everyone experiences, but cannot always name. The truth of this was written large at the middle school talent show that I attended where I watched my son and his friends impersonate a teen rock star and dance team. They pulled it off big time after hours of practice and some great costume finds. Amidst the middle school crowd there was no impersonation, they are stars at school. They boast to me sometimes on our way home from practice how they will spread out to fill a hallway, just to watch the kids get out of their way. The boys are funny, smart, and athletic and they know it.
Other kids are not so lucky to land in such a sweet spot in school as I witnessed at the show. Of the many kids who aspire to land on American Idol came and went, my heart cracked open when a girl had the courage to get up and sing a song about the rejection and pain of her middle school years. I was overcome by a deep compassion for her courage, the painful memories from my own past on the edge of middle school favor and the intensity that happens when the private self emerges under bright lights into the public sphere.
Most of us learn early to separate our personal dreams and visions from the scrutiny of public view. You only need to be mortified once to learn how to avoid the humiliation of sharing too much with the wrong people. Sometimes the injury is so great that the break between our public and private selves becomes so complete that we divorce our insides from what people see so completely that we can be left unable to see who we are, so busy at constructing who we think we should be.