“And now that you don’t have to be perfect,
you can be good.” – Steinbeck
Growing up, my brother’s favorite Disney movie was Pinocchio. I was more a Disney princess sort of girl. Ariel and Pocahontas were my favorites. Nobody cared that I had firstborn rights; we had to share the VCR (Kids, VCRs are clunky machines in antique shops). I’d have to watch this old movie about a puppet turning into a real boy. Time and time again. Because one time is never good enough for a child; movies were watched until the VHS tape was ruined (Kids, VHS tapes can also be found at antique shops).
“I’m a real boy!” Pinocchio screams in delight. And the whole house celebrates. Even the cat and the fish join in and the cricket gets a gold star. Because Disney knows what every child knows: animals are real and cool and totally human. We forget that as we age.
We are so often like Pinocchio. Many of us live as puppets. Some of us figure out we’re real. Some would rather stay puppets. Puppets put on a show and entertain those around them. But they’re hollow on the inside. It’s easier to be a puppet, but it’s worse. It’s lonely because nobody knows your true self, and life is lived playing pretend. And we can pretend to be perfect all day long, but it’s exhausting. People-pleasing is a gamble. You can lose yourself and still never gain the people.
Or we can figure out that we’re real. It’s harder to be real, but it’s better. It’s freedom. We can drop the act. We can look at our flesh-covered bodies and know it’s a jumbled mess of screw-ups, wrong decisions, weird past experiences and total awesomeness. Then we can show the world all of that.
Jiminy Cricket tells his beloved star: “He deserved to be a real boy.” I think we all do. We deserve to be real human beings in our one and only life. We deserve to live a life that isn’t a puppet show. Cut the strings, feel the blood pulsing through your veins. If there are certain people in your life who prefer you on your puppet stage, leave them. Find people who will celebrate when you shout “I’m a real boy!” If you can only find a cat or a fish or a cricket at first, choose them. We weren’t made to be perfect puppets, we were made to be real people, alive and breathing and imperfect.