“Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.”
That is the opening line in one of my favorite episodes of HBO’s show Enlightened. The show stars Laura Dern as Amy — an enthusiastic but broken woman turned whistleblower trapped in a less-than-satisfying-sometimes-tragic-and-chaotic life in corporate America. I’ve actually written about it before and for anyone interested, you can find that post here.
The show is about to enter into it’s second season this weekend, therefore the previews and reruns have been rampant. Not that I mind. I loved it the first time and have been anxiously awaiting this moment for over a year. While waiting I’ve been refreshing my memory by watching the reruns and last night was reminded of the line I quoted at the beginning.
I was struck the first time I heard her character utter those words: Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Because I remember, vividly, as a child often pondering the very same thing. It must have been some sort of phase having to do with self-realization, self-awareness or some other sort of psycho-babble. But I’ve never shared those thoughts aloud until now. Apparently, I thought it would be fun to tell about 200+ readers instead of say, a close friend, parent or sibling.
I distinctly remember a time, early in elementary school when I would sit around my room, looking in the mirror or down at my hands, legs or feet and reflect on the notion that I was always, only ever going to look at the world through THESE eyes. As me. And NEVER anyone else. And honestly, I was a little bit disappointed. Mostly I was in awe of the fact that of all the people I’d witnessed coming and going at school, on the television, at church, at the bank or the grocery store… I would never be anyone else.
I couldn’t help but feel a teensy bit cheated by that reality. I mean, it wasn’t like life had dealt me a bad hand or anything. I had a good life. I was and am healthy. I had and continue to have wonderful parents, a sister who seemed to tolerate me THEN and is NOW a friend, a nice home, friends, pets, toys and lots and lots of love and laughter.
But I believe there was something in me that wanted desperately to know what life might be like through a different set of eyes. Call me adventurous or perhaps insane… I think back then, I just didn’t want to get bored. An entire lifetime, to me, seemed a very long time to spend inside the same body. Notice I said back then. Because as adults I think it is quite common to wonder what life looks like on the other side of the proverbial fence. We wonder what if…
What if I had studied something else in school? What if I made twice what I’m making now? What if I had two children or six? (depending on what you may or may not already have) What if I stuck that out? (insert whatever your “that” is here) What if I lived in Fiji and sold t-shirts on the beach or was a SCUBA instructor with a killer tan and chiseled body? (OK, maybe that’s just mine.) But I think you get the idea…
This is it. This IS life. And this is all we get. ONE of them, experienced through ONE pair of eyes for as many days as we’ve been uniquely given. And I guess I can pout all I want to when I look in the mirror… wishing I were taller with a willowy frame, or that I’d been an attorney or a SCUBA instructor. But I think the point is to live THIS out the best that I can. Making the most of the highs, gaining perspective from the lows.
I just love the way Amy says—with childlike honesty—something we’ve probably all considered at one time or another during this thing that we only get to do ONCE. This thing called Life… Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.
13 thoughts on “Someone Else’s Life”
Billy Joel wrote a song with similar lyrics. It had something to do with “finding yourself”. It was about relationships and it said it in a positive way. “that either way it’s okay because you always wake up with yourself.” So look at it as the only constant in your life. Getting to know who YOU are can be a real FUN adventure. Love you.
I really never thought about it – I love who I am – funny to say that, right! I love Laura Dern and that her real mom plays her mom in the show. I love Laura’s father Bruce Dern as an acter too. Enlightened is a show you can relate too – everyday living – the good, the bad and the ugly! Here’s to Living Life LARGE!!! Have a Great One:)
Hi Renee! It is a great show! I absolutely love it. I didn’t know until recently that they were actually mother and daughter in real life. I used to dislike her mother’s character, but she is growing on me this season! Have a great day. Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long! Been sick and started a new job… so life has been a little crazy!
I think about what I would do differently all the time but then again I would have to not only know what I know now I would have to be a lot smarter. I could only work with what I had at the time when I was young.
I don’t know that I have ever thought of being someone else so much as having a different life or opportunities.
You said it Linda… about having different opportunities. I think that has a lot to do with it too. Life is just so short and I always wished I could experience a whole bunch of different ones from different perspectives.
Although I can’t recall ever wanting to wake up as someone else, I do think I’ve often wanted to wake up at a different stage of life, or wake up having made other decisions (that would have of course led to the perfect result). Alas, it’s futile. Grunt work and making right decisions moving forward will build towards waking up in a different future.
Good point Todd. I think as I’ve gotten older I have wished for wiser decisions at times, but as a child (like depicted in this) I really did wish to get to see the world through another pair of eyes. I liked my life and wanted it too… I just wanted to see MORE. Kind of selfish and indulgent I know. But I’d rather think of it as adventurous 🙂 ha!
You know what I would do when I was a kid? I’d look at my hands and feet and stuff , too, but I would think about the future a lot. “These hands are going to see and go through a lot when I get old, but they’ll still be my same hands” or “When I”m old I’ll still look tyhrough these eyes at these hands, but everythign will be different.” That kind of thinking is fun and weird all at once.
Yes! That is absolutely it! You nailed it. That is exactly how I felt. It blew my mind that I would only ever look at THIS face with THESE eyes for ever… and NEVER, NOT ONCE as someone else. I wasn’t unhappy… I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the finality of it. It is fun (and weird) to entertain such thoughts, you’re right!
That never happened to me. In fact it never crossed my mind until I read it just now–waking up and being someone else. (I begin waxing into Stanley, of Oliver and Hardy fame.) I bring my head to the top of my head and begin crying, but I *don’t* want to be someone *else*, Olie. I just want to be me–and me in my own body. My hands a really roughing up that hair right about now. Ollie tells me to chill out. I do. Then I get to thinking about that time I wanted to be a hippopotamus. I still want to be a hippopotamus.
One of my earliest memories is of when I was quite young, having only a few years of life under me belt. I thought back as far as I could, which wasn’t very far at all. When I tried going farther than that, I hit a boundary of some sort. Or, perhaps it was nothing; absolutely nothing. My memory at the time I did that looked like the screen of one of those old cathode ray tube TVs that is unconnected to anything through its antenna. There was just random chaos. Nothingness. I wonder if I’ll recognize that when the big one hits?
It is so weird, Donald, the things we think about. Early memories are interesting! We all have different point of the beginnings of consciousness I guess. For some it is very early. For me, I was 2. We had been in a bad accident and I almost flew through the windshield from the backseat of the car (because in the 70s you didn’t wear safetly belts!) And I had to have 14 stitches in my face. Since I was so young I could have no anesthesia so they had to strap me down to sew up my face. I remember struggling against a lot of hands and being held down, I remember screaming and I remember a doctor in green scrubs with curly hair. That is my first memory. No wonder I’m so screwed up! Right? haha 🙂
That’s a bad one. It truly doesn’t seem to have traumatized you–just made you a better writer. 🙂
My first memory, on the other hand, was much worse. I clearly remember hearing many screams and swear words in the distance. I lived in a nice comfy home, and yet I had just been handed my Notice of Eviction — and for no good reason. Sure, I had kicked a bit, about the sometimes lousy food, (back then I hated onions). Well, I resisted mightily but I finally was shoved out into a cold world, homeless and hungry. Then some jerk lifted me upside down by my ankles and smacked me on my ass. He said, “Welcome to the world, kid.” I accidently peed in his face. Once I knew you could actually do something like that by will; as I was being handed around, I pissed on everyone I met.
They never forgave me for it. 😦
HA! Good one, Donald. You should turn that into one of your short stories! By the way… I’m so sorry I haven’t commented in so long. Life has been keeping things interesting but keeping me away from the blog more than I care to admit. First I was sick for two weeks and in that time interviewed and began a new job… Then we did a little traveling… and now I am starting a web design class. So I REALLY hope I can keep posting at least a couple times a week. I think things will settle down as I settle in. Thanks for your patience though… and for always coming back. 😉