My smartphone lights up, I received a message on Snapchat.
‘Hi Maria, this is Tina (name changed), we were at the same school. Do you remember me? Great to see how successful you have become.’
A question mark is swelling in my brain.
A classic WTF moment.
Of course I knew who Tina was. We were part of each others lives for eight years, even hung with the same group of people. We may not have been all that close, but you don’t just forget someone you knew for a third of your lifetime. I remember her laugh and her characteristic gestures. I’ don’t recall many shared moments, what I remember is more a specific feeling, if that makes sense.
Either way, I definitely remember her, and why shouldn’t I?
I think that’s what really surprised me in the message, this little ‘do you still remember me?’.
I don’t know, it made me think.
OK, I graduated about ten years ago, I left my hometown and live in Berlin now, I have changed my style quite drastically, and am a different person emotionally. I have grown, in many ways. But that doesn’t mean my memory of the past has been wiped out. In many ways I’m still Masha, the girl I used to be. Right?
I think the situation hints at a common misunderstanding.
I somehow became a public figure, and it seems that many people think that I must have turned into a different person in the process.
They see me through different eyes, they have a perspective I personally lack. That’s actually quite a common phenomenon for people in the public eye: your own perception of yourself and how other people see you start to drift apart. In other words, I don’t see myself the way you see me.
The distance that my classmate Tina perceives does not exist from my point of view.
I am not that different from her, after all, and I really don’t see the point in elevating myself to an imaginary pedestal – that would only make it more difficult to communicate on eye-level with everyone around me.
I sometimes feel uneasy in groups in which I’m tagged ‘Masha, the successful blogger’. The reason is that this projection makes me want to live up to the expectations in me, and that creates pressure. I don’t want to disappoint anyone’s high expectations in me, so I try to be my best self, which can be quite exhausting at times. The truth is of course that I’m not only ‘Mash the successful blogger’, I am also Masha who is sometimes insecure, exhausted, spaced out or absent-minded. Sometimes I am Masha, the girl who prefers to listen instead of talking. I don’t want to be tied down by expectations.
This dynamic is a reason why celebrities are often in relationships with other celebrities, and why really big stars often feel so lonely. Every day they face this big gulf between how they seem themselves and how their environment reacts to them. Ultimately, what they want is to be seen as who they are, and they will always prefer genuine emotions to smoke and mirrors.
They long for someone that let’s them be who they are, someone who does not expect them to live up to any preconceived image. I know many young women that are very well known – and very lonely. Even if it sounds like a hollow phrase, but there’s no way around this simple fact of life: at the end of the day we’re all just human beings. No more, and no less.