You might think that you do, but you probably don't. I don't know if but three or four people in the world know the “real” me. A lot of times, the guy you're talking to may look like me and act like the “me” that you know, but most of the times it involves a bit of an act, however subtle that may be.
Some of you know more about me than others. Obviously people have different circles of friends like layers of an onion, or...err...planets in a solar system. Even within these groups, there is sub-stratification, as painful as it may be to admit (or not). Some people are just better friends than others. Deal with it.
The reason I say this is that I've already been on one leg of a decently long journey, where I was able to re-connect with a lot of old buddies from college, who know a certain version of “me” better than a lot of other people. But that's the “college me.” As much as I've changed in certain ways since college, in a lot of ways, I'm exactly the same. Now, I'm getting to a leg of my journey where, for the next couple of weeks, all of the people I meet will be “new” people (at least to me). The people that I “know” in Australia are generally friends of friends, or people I literally met yesterday. Don't get me wrong—everyone's been great so far, but I came to the realization that whoever I am “right now” is the version of me that they'll think of when I leave to head back to the States. Essentially, they'll think of “me” as a snapshot in a point in my life that I've worked pretty hard to reach—an exciting version, ready for some adventure.
People grow, people evolve. Some of the formative building blocks of their personalities are left behind—discarded baggage on the tough journey of life, for better or worse. It's our job to try to reach a point where all of our friends and family members recognize the same person objectively. That's really the only way you know you're being “real” at the end of the day, and not some random phony asshole.
If you like who you “are” with certain groups of friends, try to figure out ways to universalize that person to the rest of your encounters with the world. Whether it's removing that filter in your head, or being nicer to people, or coming out of social interactions with more positive results, try to make sure that you focus on being the person that you want to be. Nobody else is going to do it for you. At the end of the day, it does no good to hide that person, play by other peoples' rules, and end up drooling in a nursing home at 70. For me, becoming that person involves taking more risks, and not worrying about what strangers think about me. I think I'm trying to take steps in that direction right now—we'll see whether or not it takes.
Any thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.