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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Robbins

The Idea Behind the Mask



This lesson in Honesty has had me reflect more deeply than I thought I would be honest with myself. That statement has had me explore a more vulnerable side to myself, that there was a time not too long ago when I found it hard to be me, and to hold my gaze in the reflection has its challenges.  I didn’t like who was looking back. It wasn’t me. 


On reflection, I realized why I was a person who could shift to become what the people around me needed me to be. I didn’t know how else to live, I was still a child and it made my mother’s life easier if I was well-behaved and obedient. That meant going to school getting good grades and being someone she could gush about to her friends and family. Being a child that did his chores, and did his best to keep our home maintained. 


To my family, the second home I found myself extending my responsibility into that realm. I was responsible and dependable because I was the caregiver for my cousins, after school and into the night while our parents worked. I had a lot more responsibility than other kids my age. That mask was easier to maintain, and I was heavily relied on to perform this way. If not me, who? 

I did have an older cousin, in this house a cousin who was more like a sister to me, and yet she was in her rebellious stage and her responsibilities became mine. I had to, it made our parents’ lives easier knowing I was there to pick up the slack. It is a lot of pressure for a child that age to be an adult. My childhood was different from others my age. 


That was who I was, I became whatever I needed to be, I was better than the alternative which was being the person in the mirror. I don’t know why it was so hard to face that about myself. It was scary. The idea of revealing the face under the mask was terrifying for me. I felt that I had so much more to lose.  If people knew who I was, who I was. They would abandon me. I don’t know why I had that fear, it was there nonetheless. Some had the natural ability to see past the guise and stayed anyway. I wasn't abandoned they wanted to see me and know me and not the faces underneath. They would challenge me to do my best to live unmasked. To do my best to live authentically. These teachers would come to me much later when I was ready to leave these characters behind. 


As I grew up, those masks evolved to embody full characters with a back story to who they were and why. Their past was not unlike my own, only their present and what they accomplished felt so much more important than I could do on my own. I gave them credit for it, I didn’t feel worthy of the praise that came while I wore these costumes. It's strange, it was all still me only, I chose not to see it that way. I was in the military, I created a new persona, the person they needed. Again when I discovered burlesque, exploring my sexuality, and my body through dance and expression. Again when I explored my idea of community building and philanthropy, its own identity and the way I had to present myself 


Once I hit midlife, it all became too much to maintain these guises. I didn’t have the energy to. And looking at the face in the mirror became a choice. Having the support of those in my life, who could see me even when I wanted to be invisible. To step into myself, retaking the achievements my constructs claimed. To walk my life as myself, perhaps I’ll explore these passions of mine as me. No more aliases, just me as myself, using my name and any influence I might have, to push forward in my future endeavours.  

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