The Other Me
A few weeks ago, I read a review of a book by a psychiatrist in which he said that the life you live in your head is just as much a part of your personality as the life you really live.
Except for this one statement the review was so dull that I was convinced the book has to be dull, which is why I can’t remember its name.
But this statement stayed with me. I find it intriguing. Many of us are, for instance, intrepid explorers (or at least inveterate globe-trotters) in our heads even though in real life the farthest we travel might be between our homes and offices.
Many of us live happy non-materialist lives in our heads, content to work for just enough to live on because we’re working on what we love, even though in real life we’re doing jobs we may actively dislike because we don’t want to be poor.
Many of us are independently wealthy and wallowing in luxury in our heads, even though in real life we’re stuck in low-paying, mind-numbing and body-destroying worlds in which we’re lucky to be earning anything at all.
All of us dream of other lives we know (or think we know) we can’t really live because we’re held back by various things – circumstances in some cases, fear in many more
cases. Usually these dreams, these lives we live in our heads, are regarded as escapist. But this psychiatrist, whoever she or he is, says these lives are not a form of running away from reality. The nature of these dreams are come from our own natures, our characters and personalities. The people we are in our heads are just other versions of us.
When I thought about it, I could see why. Forget the dreams that take us out of our circumstances. Those are escapist and we know that. I, for instance, would like to never have to work. And while not working, I see myself pottering between several homes — in the mountains, by the sea, a penthouse in Bombay — all with gorgeous outside places to lounge about in, all perfectly empty of people other than myself but filled with relaxing furniture like hammocks and loungers, and all crammed with mountains of books and external hard drives with thousands of TV shows of the kind I like.
These are castles in the air and I know it. I know for a fact that if I didn’t have an office to go to, I would go mad (though I would certainly love to have a phone and email-free holiday that lasts much longer than 10 days). I know for a fact that I often feel burdened by Things and hate having to take care of more Things than I absolutely must, so even if I could afford three houses of the kind I want, they would drive me crazy. It’s nice to dream of these things, but in real life, I really wouldn’t want them.
But there are other lives I live in my head, and though I don’t live them in real life, I know they are actual versions of me.
For instance, I live a happy non-materialist life in my head, in which I’m content to work for enough to live on as long as I’m working on what I love.
In many ways, I live that life for real too since I have a pretty austere lifestyle. I dislike shopping (except for books). I don’t like going out much (my social life is restricted to two or three friends). I’m solitary by nature. I have no dependents to have to take care of. I like an uncluttered home, so the décor, such as it is, is minimal. I own domestic conveniences like a microwave oven, an OTG and a washing machine because I don’t like being dependent on the bais, but I don’t change models unless the old machines are beyond repair. I’m not seduced by fancy new technology and I actively hate my phone, so I’m certainly not upgrading every time an upgrade is available. And every time my father suggests that I might want to consider buying a car, I flatly refuse.
Frankly, beyond roti (okay, of a much fancier type than plain roti, but that’s because I can afford it), kapda (because I’m too much of a prude to wander about nude), makaan (I MUST have my own house for security’s sake) and money for transport and books and health problems I hope I never have, I don’t particularly want much.
But will I quit a job that stresses me out to do something that will make me feel good, but pay less? No. Much as I dream of it, no. I’m too frightened to give up money. I want to be secure when I’m retired and not earning any longer.
But that person in my head? The one who teaches where teaching is required, or brings out magazines and runs websites for non-profit organisations that need good communication to bring in donations and clients? That person is also real. That person is me – just an unfrightened me.
Who’s YOUR other me?