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The Replaceable Shadow

images - Natalie Ving

You are nobody's first choice. You are easily forgotten. You don't matter enough to be wanted. You are easily replaced.

Sound familiar?

For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to be someones first choice. The thought would hit me like a tidal wave of loneliness where my self worth plummeted under the riptide, causing tears until my lungs ached. The beginnings of feeling that I as a person was replaceable are not difficult to pinpoint; that despite being an overachiever, I never received the approval at home that I wanted, and the only kind of choice that picked me was an abuser.

I glowed briefly under the praise of teachers, and would smile inwardly every time one of them underestimated my ability. I remember when I was 14 years old, an English teacher was abrupt and fairly rude towards me, until I offered to share my creative piece with the class. It was a short story about a future dystopia, capturing a sense of hopelessness and feeling alien to ones' environment as the harsh sand buffered skin and broken cities alike. I distinctly remember the slow wave of shock that came over her face as I read, and the complete change of attitude towards me thereafter, and how pleased I felt when, for a brief moment, I had left an impression of worth.

Feeling like I was not enough also arose from being cheated on several times, and the accompanying emotional response that followed as my intuition ate away at my guts. I read messages and heard comments from the women my boyfriends cheated with, hearing their icy laughs of domination. I will never forget the girl who met me on a double date and slept with my long term boyfriend that same night, and when I asked her why and said "But you met me!" protesting my existence rather than being a concept she could ignore, she replied "I don't care about you. I take what I want."

I consider the shadow of feeling replaceable timeless in origin but exasperated by a modern culture of the disposable. In social media, and in the cyber world, if you are not constantly in the spotlight, you are irrelevant. Actors joke that they are only as good as their last production, analysts highlight the shortness of attention span, video creators are encouraged to cap themselves at 10 minutes rather than deeply explore their topic, everything is instantly accessed, downloadable and replaceable just as fast.

We live in a global ecosystem which is easier to access than ever. There are real benefits to be sure, but there is also an inescapable chasm of choice. So much choice, and so many options, in fact, that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the endless nature of it all, including our place within it.

There is always someone more beautiful, thinner, younger, more intelligent, richer, more famous.

For many years I have reconciled myself with this notion, seeking to undo a lifetime of conditioning, reasoning that we are all unique and yet connected.

The issue within spiritual circles and healing this wound, was that if you reason that you, yourself, are meant to choose you, you are labelled as selfish and at the whim of your 'ego,' (which is a whole other conversation.)

I also think often of Marilyn Monroe.

Eternally famous, branded for her sexuality, and suffered from depression and loss of identity. I think of the story where she could walk around New York and go unrecognized until she "turned on Marilyn," or became her, and people would suddenly react. I think of the disillusion that must come with fame, because people have decided who you are without really knowing. The expectation is a pedestal from which one can only fall. I know a little something of this being in the spiritual public eye, albeit on the smaller scale. I know the feeling of people expressing disappointment because you are not who they thought, you are, after all, human.

I wonder if we can ever really be someones first choice, because we are different people depending on who we are interacting with, and if choosing ourselves is the only real option after all.

Many blessings, Starlet

Joey Morris

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