That’s just me.

By September 1, 2010 Myth or Reality

There’s an old adage that goes something to the tune of, “If you want to find out everything you need to know about a man, watch how he treats his mother.”

It has legs, that one. But, I’d like to take it a bit further.

Think, if you will, about your stories. Or the stories that you know about people in your life. Not just any stories, but the defining kind.

For example:

Once upon a time, I was accused of being a lesbian by a scary-ass, punk rocker, skin headed girl. She wore rolled up jeans, white undershirts and black combat boots, she smoked cigarettes and listened to the Violent Femmes. It was 1984. And we were eleven. It was ‘tales of a 6th grade nightmare’.

There was nothing okay about being called gay in the 80’s. To this day, it’s a horrid thing for an adolescent kid to bear. But then, I dare say, it was even worse. There was nothing about it that was okay or, seemingly, survivable.

I remember crying for exactly one afternoon. And then I just started to fight. I literally steamrolled my way through. I took no prisoners. I made it out of this particular hell, but there were casualties. And I made it because I had to.

I could go on. I could provide intense details. I could bare my soul to you.

Literally, I would be baring my soul.

It’s come to my attention—reflecting on my own stories (and this one, while soul-defining, is only the point of the pencil) and looking back on stories other people have told me about themselves, and then comparing the ‘us’ in the old stories to the people we are now—that, for better or for worse, we are who we are.

For life.

Of course we can change, grow, become. We can learn how to run a business or translate our skills, we can stop liking overalls and start liking short skirts and tall boots, we can crave time alone—when before it was unbearable. Surely, I can’t deny that there are certain parts of me that are the poster girl for one’s ability to transform.

Or can I?

There’s a pretty good chance that these changes are purely reflections, evidence even, of me just becoming more me.

Which is why I think that if you want to really know who someone is, I think you might want to look beyond ‘mom’ and go straight to the stories, the history, the past. The moments when, once upon a time, the shit hit the fan.

How did you/he/she start it? How did you/he/she act during it? And how did you/he/she leave it?

Because as much as I love storytelling, the details of the stories aren’t the important parts. The important things to note are the M.O.’s that poke out surreptitiously from under the carpets of these tales like police search lights.

I have more of those stories. We all do. Some of them, I’m proud of. Some…not so much. I’ll possibly share them with you over a dirty martini sometime…

But, if I piece together who I was—beginning, middle and end— during those early stories, I get an awfully accurate picture of who I am now. The good, the evil, the promise, the demise, the capabilities, the shortcomings, the beauty, the fug.

That’s just me.

Same bones—plus or minus some density, same face—plus or minus some elasticity and wrinkles, same hair—plus or minus some fullness and color. And the same basic self—plus or minus some scars, lessons learned, experiences ignored and victories tucked in deep.

The core of our physical selves doesn’t change. Which begs the question, why would the core of our metaphysical selves change? Last I checked, no one was growing new DNA.

Image credit: meerkatjes

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    That’s…profound. And I believe it completely.

    One thing that’s always bothered me is my poor long-term memory. I have studied the past, but if I forget what I’ve studied, I’m still doomed to repeat it. Right?

    That’s why I started blogging. Way before I ever had anything to monetize, or anything to gain with a “platform,” I was blogging to tell the stories I still remembered about my life to the future self who wouldn’t remember them. If somebody else enjoyed reading it too, well, good for them. But I did it for me.

    And even now, with Unstressed Syllables, I keep a streak of that alive. I do four lectures every week — two background, and two application — but I always kick those off with two stories. Stories that define me.

    I make a passing attempt at turning them into object lessons, or at least attention-grabbing intros, but down deep I’m just carrying on that selfish desire to capture the memories that characterize me, through and through.

  • Bonnie says:

    so ready for the dirty martini and story sharing!
    I agree with most of your post. People can pretend to be someone else for a short time, but of course, we all know that the truth reveals itself over time. I think that we often kid ourselves though about who we really are. We take on different personas and then begin to believe them.

  • Corinne says:

    I’ve got quite a few stories like that myself, thinking about them makes my eyes watery and my heart pound.
    But I think you’re right – we are who we are. And who we are today includes pieces of who we are at every stage in our life. We grow, but we might not entirely change.

  • Mmm mmm mmm. This is delicious, provocative, truth-filled stuff. LOVE it!!!

    And I’m SO with you on this – between the lines is where we really live, exist, shine, and/or hide. It’s where I love to go with others, am a bit reticent to go with myself, and know to be the most significant place in which to invest time, thought, and energy.

    Beautifully written. Even more beautifully thought. Beautifully offered.

    Thank you.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    So true. What makes us “us” is always the same. We might temper ourselves some–become calmer over the years or more accepting or more spiritual or whatever. But the basic essence is still the same. You can see personalities forming in very young children, and you can see them in the future–what types of adults they will become–by how they already are.

  • This reminds me a lot of the stories my parents tell about me about baby self, namely about my, err, strong personality. Although I resent these stories sometimes, they, who know me best, understand that I will always be the same, will always continue to become more of that same mini-person I was back then. I may just re-work it a little bit, remix a bit of that strong personality to fit my life and future goals.

    Thanks for this. *thumbs up* (as per usual?)

  • Andi says:

    Great post, sometimes we are smarter than we are. When I was little I wanted to be President of the United States, but as I aged, I continued to be a leader, but down-played any ambition, I kept saying I don’t want to be an executive, etc, but my actions do not match that…I guess myself knows me better than myself??

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