When I was younger, I developed a desire to overachieve. Reasons aside, I grew up to become self-conscious of what people thought of me, as well as how I can adapt so as to be more perfect as a person.
Over time, events have shown me again and again, that Life isn’t meant to be perfect and neither are we, as humans.
Still, I like to study what it means to be Human, all because I have been searching for what it means to be Me. Where does my identity come from? Where do my desires, fears and wants derive from? How should I find my way to living a fulfilled life? What can give me a meaningful purpose in life beyond enjoying it?
“I’ve always tried to make sense of things. There must be a reason why I am as I am”
Bicentennial Man, 1999
In the movie Bicentennial Man, when asked why he wanted to become human, instead of live forever as a machine, Andrew, played by Robin Williams replied:
“To be acknowledged for who and what I am, no more, no less. Not for acclaim, not for approval, but, the simple truth of that recognition. This has been the elemental drive of my existence, and it must be achieved, if I am to live or die with dignity.”
Before he made the full transition from Android to Human, he had a conversation with the woman he loved, Portia. She was about to marry another man because she couldn’t accept loving a robot. Yet, you could see in her the desire for him to fight for her. She was almost begging for him to make the decision for her.
Portia: Take chances, make mistakes. Sometimes, it’s important not to be perfect. It’s important to do the wrong thing.
Andrew: Do the wrong thing? Why? Oh I see, to learn from your mistakes.
Portia: No! To make them. To find out what’s real and what’s not. To find out what you FEEL. Human beings are terrible messes, Andrew.
Andrew: I see. This is what is known as an irrational conversation, isn’t it?
Portia: No, this is a human conversation. It’s not about being irrational, it’s about following your heart.
Uncontrollably, while watching this scene, my mind brought me back to a conversation I had with my ex-husband.
We were talking about him being in love with another woman, and he was trying to be truthful with me. I could see that. As hard as the conversation was, he was trying to tell me something I think neither of us could understand at that moment.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s right. My friend told me to follow my heart. And I told him that I was afraid to do that. What if following my heart means hurting you?”
When I first heard him say that to me, 2 whole years ago, my heart didn’t quite sink immediately. My pride got destroyed, but something inside me agreed wholeheartedly with him. I think we both felt that what we thought was love……was not true. We didn’t really love each other. But parts of us craved it so much we thought we could will it to happen.
At that time, we weren’t in an estranged relationship as we are now. Messy divorces destroy relationships. Many things were said and done between us, and we can no longer repair whatever bond or trust we had before. But back then…..when we still had that connection, I said to him.
“Don’t worry about me. No matter what happens, I’ll always be okay. If you choose someone else, I’ll eventually still be okay.”
Of course, as we all know, life is not as simple as that. The truth sometimes hurts. And in the coming 2 years, Truth revealed itself in many ways, of who, what, why and how. And it hurt. While dealing with pain and shame, humans do what their animalistic instincts tell them to – Fight or flee.
In the end, names were called, accusations were made and even more pain and shame ensued. For the overthinker and self conscious person I am, I struggle with both anger and guilt, always almost at once. On one hand, I want to acknowledge the wrongdoings done towards me, things said about me, on the other hand I want to be kind, understanding and focus on my own faults instead.
But that’s what being human is, isn’t it? As a species, we are so vulnerable and insecure, having risen up to the top of the food chain in just a short matter of time, when evolution used to happen over hundreds of thousands of years.
Being human is to have all of these contradicting thoughts and emotions, all clashing inside our minds at times of conflict. Conflict between us and others, conflict within ourselves.
The truth, although it hurt, is that I wasn’t quite sure of what I was doing back then. I wasn’t sure what I wanted in life. I let external factors decide for me. If given a choice between A or B, I never asked for C, even if I didn’t really want either A or B. On top of all of the uncertainty I had about myself and how I should live my life, I cared too much of what others thought. I unnecessarily sought people’s approval.
In his dying moments, Andrew’s life-partner Portia, played by Embeth Davidtz, asked why he needed the world’s approval – Why did it matter if the world viewed him as human if he was able to live a good part of his life as one?
“Old habits. I came into this world as a robot, I still like to be told certain things.”
This complete acceptance of who he is as a person, without needing to change or be perfect, is admirable. Now that I’ve started to understand where my people-pleasing/ fixer tendencies stem from, its easier to decide when to give in and when to reject them.
The movie follows Andrew as he slowly figures out the different desires he has, each arising at different stages, but all pointing to the ultimate goal of him wanting to become Human. From at first wanting to wear clothing, asking for facial expressions to later on asking for freedom, searching for his own kind and even going through the process of becoming human, Andrew spent a good 200 years exploring different facets of himself. The entirety of his being was constantly changing and growing, as he started understanding himself better.
Though he spends good effort in making permanent changes so as to be acknowledged as a human by humans, in the end, he passes away peacefully without hearing that his status has been converted from Robot to Human. “Maybe he didn’t need to hear it,” Portia told the nurse who was caring for them. Moments later, we witness the sweet ending of Portia crossing the end of life, minutes after Andrew.
Alas, pain is inevitable at times, especially in the pursuit of the truth. And just as Andrew discovers, loss, grief and mistakes are all part of the human existence.
While embracing who I am, I also realize that life as a human is incredibly messy and there’s no need for us to crave perfection or to be acknowledged by anyone else but us. We might want it, but we don’t need it to be happy.
The biggest mistake I made in life also brought about the biggest lessons. I’ve had other regrets in life before, but never the determination to learn from them. As they say, certain things take time to happen. Everyone journeys through life at their own pace, in their own time.
Writing to remind myself to practice Patience. That it’s okay to be imperfect because that’s the very definition of being Human.