Do You Ever Just Want to Start Over?
I think about it every day. Not starting my entire life over, but abruptly going back to zero. As prehistoric as we can be. Delete everything about your life outside of your family. And just start over.
No email. No cell phone. No friends. Nobody knows who you are.
Maybe it’s going too far. Maybe not. Do you ever just want to press a button and start fresh? Erase the misery from your life. Or the monotony. The people holding you back. The technology wasting your days. And become untethered.
Basically, the witness protection program on purpose.
It’s ok to say yes. I say yes every day. It doesn’t mean I don’t like my friends. Or want to abandon my kids (they can come with me on the adventure). Or Netflix. Or Hulu. It’s just that I really have a fascination with becoming anonymous again.
Not that people know me, like, in the world. But I’m 48, I’ve crossed paths with enough people. I’ve put myself out there on the Internet. I can’t really escape now. Can you?
We are so searchable and locatable. I would just like the option to be unknown and unfound. Would you? Even just for a week.
On Being Unknown
The feeling of going to the grocery store and knowing that you won’t run into anyone you know. And that if you strike up a conversation with a total stranger, they won’t be a friend of a friend. You are just you. The new you. An unknown entity with no history.
Maybe it’s a philosophical endeavor, i.e. midlife crisis, that is bringing on these thoughts of anonymity and the anticipated pleasure of it. I could be the only person who thinks like this.
There are some great writers online who are quasi-anonymous. I know them, but I don’t know them. I don’t even know what their real names are. And it’s interesting.
I don’t even want that. I literally want to be able to say my name and have no one know me or be able to find my stupid LinkedIn profile in five seconds. But I wonder how it feels. To be heard and acknowledged, but still unknown.
I wonder how it feels to be discovered again. As a human being and not through a Google search. No one is outside of reach right now. If I want to know about you, I Google you. And I learn alleged facts about you. But I don’t know you.
I don’t know what you order at a diner. What candy you would choose if you could have only one. If you’re down with milkshakes. I know the surface. Because I searched you. But the surface is nothing.
Maybe we are unknown still. Because we lie about ourselves so much. Always putting our best foot forward. On Instagram. A perfectly curated snapshot of bullsh*t. Especially those people. Wouldn’t you just like to be unknown?
On Starting Over
Just think about it. The witness protection program. According to the U.S. Marshals Service:
Witnesses and their families typically get new identities with authentic documentation. Housing, subsistence for basic living expenses and medical care are provided to the witnesses. Job training and employment assistance may also be provided.
One day you are you. And everyone knows you. And there are a lot of good things that go with that. Security. Comfort. Stability.
But then tomorrow you are Bob Loman or Patricia Mantle. And no one has any idea who you are. And you get to start over.
“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” — Guy Finley
I read all these quotes on starting over, from celebrities. They don’t understand starting over. Or they do as it relates to their narrative. Sure, you start over after your movie bombs. Or you get caught doing something stupid. But your past is still there.
The starting over in my head erases all of that. Whether you have done something bad or not. I have not, by the way. I have just always liked beginnings.
I have moved a lot in my life. Sometimes across the country. Sometimes just because we changed houses. But I always liked it. Because it meant I would find all new things. To eat. To do. To see.
But I am also a creature of habit. And maybe that plays into this existential crisis of mine. When I first got to my second college town I was so hyped up. I found my lunch spot. I found the video store. I found the drug store. The supermarket. And they were all new.
Then three years later I would walk into the Subway and my sandwich would be at the end of the counter waiting for me. I would go to the video store and my boy, Rob, would have two brand new videos hidden away for me. I would greet my friends at the supermarket and drugstore. I would get the same protein shake at the same gym. Every. Single. Day.
So I graduated. And moved the f*ck away. To somewhere I hadn’t lived. Where relatives were close. But I knew no one. And I started over.
Moving was refreshing to me. It still is. I think about my next move ten times a day. My plans for when my kids are both in college are recalculated every day. With excitement. For them. And for me.
On the Freedom of Being Untethered
It means more to me that the definition suggests. Because I have children I know I will never be, or want to be, truly untethered. But beyond them, I do want to feel like that. Beholden to no one or no place. Free and unrestrained. I don’t know that it is possible in this world anymore.
We have to be tracked. Accounted for. Because we are back data in a universal startup. The one that is taking over our own minds. And leaving us tethered to an algorithm. Or a computation. Or a UI.
But wouldn’t it be nice to be free from that? And to be at zero. In anonymity.
And not for anyone else.
Just for a moment.
“I just miss — I miss being anonymous.” — Barack Obama