When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend named Clara. She was no ordinary friend — besides the fact that no one else can see her — because she was also my twin. Yes, daft as it may sound, I had an imaginary twin. My creative juices probably ran out just as I conjured her up because I decided afterwards that Clara and I will have the exact same personalities and like the exact same things. And surprise, surprise, I also decided that we looked exactly alike. Then again, we were twins right? For a seven-year-old, any other type of twins except identical ones didn't exist.
Clara only inhabited my imagination for a grand total of four days because I decided that we didn't get along very well. This stems from the fact that I didn't know her very well. Knowing that Clara was a direct reflection of who I am, I couldn't just make up stories about her — unless those stories actually happened to me first. I couldn't make up any of her traits and attributes because I had to possess those first before she had them. And she also had to carry my idiosyncrasies that I didn't really enjoy having to deal with myself — neither did I particularly like admitting that I had them.
My logic back then was simple. I wanted a friend who was similar to me so that we wouldn't have to argue much. It never occurred to me that I would learn at a very young age that a) I didn't like myself very much, b) it would be helluva lot boring if everyone was the same, and c) dolls are so much more fun to play with.
Up until this day, Clara sometimes still haunts me. She reminds me of the person that I've become — unconsciously or not. It surprises me though whenever I realize that I don't know myself as well as I think I do. Do you know what I mean? I'd like to think that I have quite a good grasp on the person that I am but then I catch myself doing something that I never thought I'd be capable of doing (and no, I didn't mean that in a sinister way at all). It's like I'm still in the process of getting to know myself. A neverending process, at that. Life is full of surprises… and so am I.
Over the years, I've found out quite a bit about myself. I've grown — I'd like to think that I did. There were some years wherein I have grown faster than other years, but I've learned something all the same. Getting to know myself, I find, is like getting to know a friend. I discovered good things, and I discovered bad things. And just like getting to know someone else, there were some things that I liked about myself and there were things that I didn't.
I was one of those straight-A students who always made a beeline towards the top percentile of the class. I studied religiously, did my homework all the time, engaged in extra-curricular activities and teachers loved me. I was one of those kids that parents wanted their children to hang out with. I was, in other words, the perfect student. I finished school scraping some honors on the side and managed to form a decent collection of awards. It wasn't until I left the four walls of my last academic institution that I realized… I wasn't as smart as I thought I was. It was a rude awakening and truly a difficult one to come to terms with. I felt cheated in thinking that I had everything I need in my back pocket to survive life.
This realization eventually led to other discoveries such as the degree of my impatience, my low tolerance level for frustrations, my surprising complacency regarding financial achievements, my renewed pride in weak moments, and my right to self-entitlement. I never knew I was any of those — until I was put in various situations that allowed me to unleash my monsters.
Getting to know myself was like getting to know someone else — discovering the positives and the negatives. It's still a work in progress for me, though I more or less have an idea on how it's looking. However, there's one main difference about getting to know myself and getting to know a new friend. At least I know that I can do something about those negative traits that I don't like about me. Unlike being with someone else, I can't just abandon myself in pursuit of a new self. Don't we all wish that it were that easy sometimes? I have to live with myself forever — and forever is a long time. I know I have some hiccups and nicks that I have to cure, but at least I now know which ones.
I do wonder sometimes though… if Clara were real, would she like how I turned out?
Perhaps I have those life lessons to thank for letting me find out more about myself. It's definitely true that you don't learn everything in school — especially the most important stuff. If there was a “University of Life,” I doubt that I would do as well as I did back in school. Then again, who cares? It's not like there would be any grades. It's either we pass or we fail. Seemingly simple — but not that simple.