Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Questionable Qualifications 4/21/09

You should always look your best, because someday, when you least expect it, you may meet yourself.

DB The Vagabond
I hope all is well.

It often seems to me that I've spent most of my life being defined and described by other people. Family members knew me to be one way, my teachers another, colleagues another, critics another. That is an awful lot of hats to wear, especially since none of them fit my head. The worst part of it is that I tried, as most young people do, to be the person they described me as, and in those rare moments when my real self oozed through the cracks, I disappointed them.

Isn't it odd how people have to tuck others into nice cozy boxes with labels on them? And isn't it even odder that we let them do it? The result is a giant cover up. One can spend a lifetime trying to believe he is what other people say he is. One can adopt attitudes, behavior, opinions, even careers and life styles trying to conform to a fiction.

The human being is an infinitely complicated creature. There are no two alike. And yet when we become even the slightest bit self-aware we find it hard to believe that any one else is as complex as we are. And that's an easy mistake to make if the other person is only acting out a role he thinks is assigned to him.

I'm amused when I read that the critics are unanimous in their praise of some rising star, knowing that in three years or so that star will be a footnote. Or if he remains on the scene the media will be prying into his private life trying to come up with some way of defining him. Even though I was only a minor league celebrity I had the same label pasting put on me. A few times in my career I received a standing ovation from a large audience after my performance, which was very appreciated. But I knew there was at least one person, not standing, who didn't like it.

I've been labeled a realist, an idealist, a humanist, a socialist, a religionist, a classic, an eccentric, a traditionalist, a failure, ignorant, too sensitive, impractical, foolhardy, a dreamer, a loser, a liar, a genius, undependable, irrational, a joker, a loner, sarcastic, stupid, a leader, a curmudgeon, a betrayer, egotistical, awe inspiring.

What am I? The answer is: None of the above. I am a human being. And I am more complicated than I will ever possibly know. I have spent many unhappy hours struggling to squirm out of one or another of those boxes. But one of the advantages of growing older is that one can more freely throw off the labels, like leaves of a cabbage, to get to the heart. Yes, it gets harder, because some of the lower layers have been there for a long time.. But with each discarding of some false category that I have found myself believing in, I get closer to the real man. I sincerely hope that some day soon I will meet him.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
May you have glee today.


pacifica 62 said...

I have always disliked labels because I feel that they put severe limitations on what people were meant to be. When you start to believe the labels, then there is little motivation to become the person that you want and need to be in life. Somebody has already defined you so no need to make up your own definition. I agree that in our later years we can toss off the labels and just be the person that we know ourselves to be. It is a very comfortable and liberating feeling.

Arlene (AJ) said...

As usual DB, such a touching read.You're indeed a wonderful human being and you're like the rest of us that each day has to deal with challenges, changes in our life and keep striving for what tomorrow brings, be it good or bad. It's what makes us survivors.

Beth said...

Good advice. It's so easy to assume something about someone because of their words, actions, or sometimes their looks. As you said, we realize that we're incredibly complicated, so why would we think that others aren't as well? There is always more than meets the eye, and surface appraisals are unfair to everyone.

Love, Beth

Lori said...

The only thing worse than having someone bind you to your past is binding yourself to your past. Sometimes we grow out of our labels and forget to make sure everyone knows it!

Connies Photos said...

I have spent many unhappy hours struggling to squirm out of one or another of those boxes.
No truer words have ever been spoken-such is my life and I'm afraid most lives..
I can never be me-at least the me I want to be..
I am a fraction of each of the me that others think I am or perceive me to be..
and a little of me gets lost along the way...so sad we struggle our whole life to find
ourself when we were here all the time....

Joyce said...

So much of how people see us on the outside is due to the masks we human being's tend to wear. The inside in much more complicated than the outside shows. That old saying about judging a book by it's cover is sooooo true.
Hugs, Joyce