Those are the jarring words of Tom Ripley, one of the most fascinating and disturbing characters I have ever seen on film. It’s been more than a decade since I first watched The Talented Mr. Ripley (Matt Damon plays the conflicted character who takes on the identity of a friend he idolizes, and eventually murders), yet I’m still haunted by this bit of dialogue. My guess is that I understand Ripley’s lament; when the movie premiered, my 18-year-old self knew how intriguing it might be to live a life in direct contrast to my own, no matter how happy I perceived myself to be.
Why? The reasons are too long to tackle in a brief blog post. (Email me, and I’ll send you the unabridged version, but I warn you: the Bible is shorter.) What I can tell you is that insecurities played their part—feelings of inadequacy, constantly comparing myself to society’s definition of a man, my inability to live up to these expectations. I fooled myself for a number of years thinking that if I could finally fit this mold—a.k.a., lie to myself—internal happiness could be obtained. Portraying myself as something I wasn’t was the easier alternative than addressing the ugliness that existed within.
Others aren’t immune to this phenomenon, evident by the MTV show Catfish, which is based on one of my favorite documentaries of the same name. Week after week, I hear the stories of people creating fake versions of themselves online as a means to feel connected, downplay their insecurity, escape the hand they’ve been dealt. And I get it. I know their pain and reasons for living a double life. It always amazes me that when some of them are caught in a lie, they are relieved. It’s as if they wanted to be freed of this burden, yet had no idea how to do so.
Thankfully, I’m no longer suffering the same fate as Tom Ripley. I have been freed. I’ve learned—and believe me, it’s taken time—to silence the inner voice that makes me second-guess all the good that comes with living a life the way you choose to live it. Lying isn’t necessary anymore. I pray the other catfishers come to the same revelations, since they have it in them—we all do—to get offline and show the world the beauty of individuality.
THE ETERNAL OPTIMIST