I feel like I’m on the cusp of a great personal discovery and just can’t quite grasp it, as I sit contemplating my life and who I am on the bus from Cúc Phương National Park back to home in Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s a weird setting for deep introspection, especially with the bright purple brocade curtains and bumping Vietnamese techno pop music blaring out of bad speakers.
I’ve recently slowly started to come to the realization that who I think I am and the person that other people see are pretty drastically different. And I’m also realizing that I want my inner and outer narratives to be more in line with one another.
In Budapest during my second month, I decide to take a jump and get the undercut I’ve been thinking about for a while. For my birthday, I curl (what’s left of) my hair and wear dark lipstick. I remark to others that the new haircut makes me look a lot more punk than I actually am. I wonder what the rest of the world thinks of me when they see me on the street.
I wonder if I care.
I give a hug to one of my program leaders. She turns and mentions that I’m not usually a huggy person. I’m a little shocked. I come from a hug-heavy family and have always considered myself a hugger.
Then I realize that I’ve not been a hugger on this trip, and that I’ve been very reserved with physical affection.
It bothers me, and makes me reflect on why I’ve been so reserved.
After a few drinks, I confess to a fellow remote that I feel like I don’t fit in with the group sometimes and that its been hard. They respond with surprise – they’d seen me as fitting in with everyone, outgoing and social. Something to aspire to. A few weeks later I’m talking with another remote, someone I thought was fitting in in a way I was jealous of. They confess the same thing to me that I’d just confessed a few weeks ago.
I’m beginning to sense a pattern.
I’ve always had a bit of eidetic memory, being able to recall weird facts and research quickly. That, in addition to being a little addicted to researching random topics when I come across a question I don’t know the answer to, has led to a lifetime of being pretty good at trivia. My cousin growing up used to call me a human dictionary. In school I had to learn to suppress the urge to answer everyone’s questions because it very quickly led to teasing and being ostracized. In the beginning of my Remote Year trip, I again found myself trying to hide this part of myself out of habit, but eventually it emerged as I became more comfortable around my tramily.
Some of the group has taken to calling me “Siri” and asking me questions like they’d ask their iPhones. It makes me laugh every time they do it, and I enjoy the newfound ability to be a know-it-all without it leading to resentment. I get to flex my nerd brain a bit (as my fellow remote Connor calls it), and I like it. However, I still worry internally that people think I’m being a show-off and think I’m annoying when I know the answers to their questions.
Despite the confidence I tend to project, my inner narrative is a lot more unsure of myself. This is the little voice that asks questions like “What if someone figures out you aren’t what everyone thinks you are?” And “Why would you think they’d like and accept you when you put your foot in your mouth like that?” This is the voice on the inside that has come from years of lacking self confidence. I think in some way shape or form I’ve always felt like I’ve lacked self confidence, and any outward projection of confidence was just me faking it. And I’ve also come to realize during this trip that almost everyone has this little asshole voice.
The phrase “fake it till you make it” seems particularly apt lately. Because I finally feel like I’ve faked being confident for long enough to finally start fighting against my internal voice of self doubt and realize that I should feel like the badass woman on the inside that I’m living on the outside.