I call this style of writing DJ fiction, because I feel it’s just like a DJ spinning records. Everything is true, but I mashed together a lot of different eras of my life to create this hybrid form of writing to tell a story about finding yourself.
I walked into the psychologist’s office and slowly sat down. My mind whirled like I was getting strapped into a broken amusement park ride and I wasn’t sure I’d be safe. I always have felt embarrassed and ashamed for being in places like this.
I confronted these same feelings of inadequacy every time I entered this room. How had my life come to this point? Why did I have to talk to a psychologist to sort out my deepest problems? Why couldn’t I figure it out on my own? I was a smart, successful, rich human being at this point in my life. But the question that plagued me was, if I was so intelligent and successful, why couldn’t I figure myself out on my own? How had I lost my life direction so badly that I had to rely on a psychologist’s advice to help me find myself again?
The office door opened, and the psychologist I had met with the week before entered the room. She walked gracefully, and sat at the desk across from me. She was at least five years younger than I was. Her hair was blonde and curled; her eyes were green. Her pupils jumped quickly like a cat’s eyes whenever she scanned the room, looking for new information to absorb. She seemed extremely aware and alert, especially when she was evaluating the people like me who sat in front of her.
“Good afternoon,” She said, opening our conversation. “After meeting with you last week, I have a plan of action I’d recommend you to take.”
I listened closely. I tried to move my eyes as swiftly and confidently as hers, so I could match her intensity. I had gotten to this point in my life being ultra-competitive, and I couldn’t turn off this behavior now. Last time I was here I played the part of a calm listener. But this time I wanted to know the truth.
I interrupted her as she spoke: “Do you think I am crazy? That’s ultimately why I am here. Am I what normal people look like in today’s wold? Or am I crazy? I need to know.”
I watched her absorb the question. She had always reminded me of a shark swimming around her office. The way she moved, and the way her mind aggressively analyzed the information, it was swift, confident, and a little scary. I had always felt like I was also swimming in her office, but like a bait fish, unable to compete with her.
This question clearly shook her. Her confidence disappeared. I was now in control and leading the conversation for the first time. A tiny revelation dawned in my mind: She may have a doctorate in psychology, but a person who is searching for real answers to the deepest questions life has to offer has just as much power as anyone else.
She tried to regain her confidence as she shook her head, no, but I heard her voice tremble:
“I don’t think you’re crazy in the traditional sense. You’re successful in the world society has created. You comprehend laws and social norms, and stay within them for the most part. But I do think you suffer from an abnormal amount of confusion and pain. I believe the source of your pain is from having done everything that’s ever been asked of you in life, but you’re finding you’re still not happy with the life you’ve found. That lack of happiness is what brought you here, and making you feel like you’re walking on the edge of craziness sometimes.”
I inhaled a long deep breath. The fresh air made me feel like I was flying around the world inside of myself. The pictures on her office walls caught my eyes as I soared. They made her look like she’s traveled the world. The Great Wall of China. The Eiffel Tower. She must have traveled a lot in High School or College. Because in my experience, there’s less time to see the world, and enjoy your life, as your career and responsibilities grow. As you get older, like in my life, you feel like you’re slowly dying, and the dreams you once had shrivel and die with you as you age.
Only a few seconds passed between our exchanging of sentences, but it felt like an eternity. The silence made me think about my life, my unhappiness, and my recent fear of craziness. She was right to a certain extent: I’ve been hiding from most people my entire life. I’ve become afraid of myself. For years, I’ve given people an image of what they wanted to see, rather than the person I used to be when I was younger and more hopeful. In fact, I’ve been hiding so long behind this advertised billboard version of myself that I don’t even know if a “real me” exists anymore. That’s it, I realize. That is the craziness I am afraid of: the possibility that a “real me” no longer exists.
The real reason I am here suddenly hits me: I needed to talk to someone I don’t know. Someone who doesn’t have an opinion of me one way or another. I thought maybe a psychologist could tell me if a real human being even existed inside this fake, advertised, billboard version of a human being that I’ve become. Maybe they could help me unlock my true identity from this cage I had created for myself.
I felt vulnerable. I needed help. “What do you think is wrong with me?” I asked her.
I looked so deeply into her eyes that I could almost see the blood droplets sloshing around in her mind as she thought. The fresh blood stimulated her brain cells, and new ideas started flowing into the communication parts of her brain.
“Even though you’ve found a lot of success in your life,” she said, “You sacrificed a lot of yourself to do it. You’ve learned how to accumulate money, power, and status, but you have no idea how to accumulate happiness.”
Her answer stabbed like it was a knife, and I was losing the fight against my own life. She was right: I was rich. Powerful. Respected. I had become the person I thought every American dreamed of becoming, but on my journey to attain that, I felt ashamed that I had chosen success above self. In pursuing only success, I lost my answers to the questions of: What makes me happy? Who am I? Why am I me? Why do I do the things I do?
As I realized all of this, it was like I was fading into the background of the room, and I traveled further into myself than I’d seen in years. Deep, deep inside my soul, I met the child that I once was. I didn’t think anyone would like me, and I didn’t think this child could be successful. So I locked myself away in a dungeon deep inside my soul, and I grew into someone I wasn’t, so that this fake version could be successful and adored by the world.
I approached the cage of this imprisoned child, and I unlocked it. I felt the child I used to be, timidly step into freedom for the first time in years. I felt the child roam around inside my skin, and I felt terrible that I had banished this child away for so long. Even though I thought I was free my entire life, I now realized I had been living inside this dungeon of success trumping self for most of my adult life.
I felt sick. Now crazy, and sick.
I had spent most of my life in a job I hated, desperate to create a successful appearance I hated. I bought things just because I wanted people to want to be me.
In my delusional way of thinking, I believed that living this advertised version of myself was my purpose in life. But this fake version of me didn’t bring me any happiness or fulfillment. This fake purpose of living my life was really a prison that kept me from experiencing the life that the child in me once dreamed about.
I heard the psychologist’s voice echo in the room. I opened my eyes. “You’ve been distant for awhile. What just happened?”
I felt the doors of my personal prison open, and I stepped out of them for the first time in many years.
“For too long, I have tried to find my identity and happiness through other people’s opinions of me.” I said. “That may have been one of the greatest mistakes I ever made because it stole the freedom from me to become the real me.”
“So if success over self does not lead you to the life you want, what way of life will lead you there?” The psychologist asked.
I smiled with a genuine grin for the first time in my adult life. “I need to find out what the child inside of me really wants me to do with the rest of this life. I think that’s the only person who will ultimately know what my real purpose of life is.”
My prison doors swung shut behind me. I was now free, and I would never enter them again. “Thank you, Doctor. Thank you.” I said.
I got up, and left my prison in my past. I started back down the path to find myself again, and I realized this is the only real way to find happiness and purpose that is real.
Discussion time: What parts of American culture make you feel crazy? What do we need to change to feel less crazy?