In my ongoing quest to figure out who it is that I am and what my purpose in life is, I've made a few observations about wildly different personas I seem to move through in the world. More on this in a second, but first, let me say that I think this concept is probably more universal than I would have initially thought, say, three years ago. In fact, I have a feeling a lot of the things I perceive as "suffering" unique to my own life are more common than my ego- caught up in its own drama- would care to admit. Ultimately, we're all dealing with the human condition, just different sets of circumstances...but I digress.
Let's get back to the idea of personas. This is something I have been aware of for quite some time, and have heard others talk about in the past, but journaling about it recently really shed some light on this idea. We all have many different relationships in various facets of our lives, and each of these come with their own set of socially constructed rules we are supposed to adhere to. The obvious one is the relationship an employee has with their employer, and the built-in power structure that comes with it. Another is the power structure between two employees if one has been employed longer/paid more dues than the other, despite otherwise being equals.
I work in a restaurant and am constantly aware of these dynamics at play. When I talk to my boss, I assume a slightly more submissive role, trying to please, despite my best intention to just be myself. When I talk to newer employees at the restaurant (say a newer server that I am training for instance), I notice that they assume a slightly docile vibe while I, in turn, feel more confident and have an authoritative vibe. Both of these examples have parallels in my own life that I noticed all through college (music professors <---> college freshman for example) and in the past four years of my adult life.
It seems that, on some level, these rules exist in every relationship we have in our lives. The relationships we have with our train conductor (can you tell I live in NYC?), our roommates, our significant others, our parents, our siblings, etc. Some of them bug me more than others- the employer/employee dynamic for instance- but all of them do seem to exist somewhere on this spectrum of deference <-------"actual self"-------> confidence. I will say that, despite my belief that this spectrum is always at play, it only really exists in the realm of ego.
Let me explain why I am so bugged by this. I often tell people I have this "fairness complex," this feeling that, ultimately, everyone and everything in the world should exist in a state of complete equality. I say it's a complex because, one, it's not feasible, two, I'm not even sure it's desirable, and three, I'm kind of obsessed with it. However, when it comes to humans interacting, I do really strongly believe- deep at my core- that we are all equal, and that these various social constructs interfere with truly seeing each other as fellow beings.
As I said, in my opinion, all of these dynamics come from the ego, and as a result I'm often left feeling confused as to who I actually am. If I have an interaction where I feel extra confident/authoritative, I think to myself, "Am I a narcissist?"* I certainly don't want to be, and deep down, I know that I'm not. Narcissism is not anywhere near the essence of what I'm trying to get at in life.** If I have an interaction at the other side of the spectrum where I feel deferent, I think, "Am I insecure? Am I a fragile being?" I don't want to be that either, but both sides of the spectrum (and everything in between) are in fact a part of me. Different windows of my own self. Or more like mirrors, I guess, because they all seem to be reflected back at one another. However, my inner self, my core- the person that I am when I am just sitting by myself in a room attempting productivity-sees them as windows. It's as if I'm looking into somebody else's life while simultaneously being aware it is my own and am confused as to why I do not recognize the person adhering to these various social constructs. I also know that if I go too far in either direction on the spectrum I end up feeling exhausted, as if I've been walked on by myself, and can only get my energy back by decompressing with plenty of alone time- the introvert in me I suppose. Despite this knowledge, I can't seem to stop myself from indulging the constructs.
This is a total tangent but I'm going to get political for a second, because, the last point I wanted to touch on is the struggle to pursue self-betterment and express myself in this fucked up political/social climate we are in at the beginning of 2017.*** In the age of Trump, how can I go about trying to further my career and better myself without feeling guilty that I'm not constantly being an activist for the things I so strongly believe in, namely equality? This is another issue I think a lot of us are probably struggling with, and there must certainly be a balance to strike. On one hand, our current POTUS is clearly a bigot misogynistic pig who represents so much of what is wrong with the world. On the other hand, what sort of activism can I engage with that will truly make a difference?
I want to believe that we all need to push ourselves even harder to be the best that we can be in whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. So in my case: If I try to:
- Become the best drummer/musician I can possibly be...
- Write the best music I possibly can- maybe even music that addresses the issues of the world I feel strongly about...
- Treat others- no matter my relationship with them (strangers <----> family) with as much respect and feelings of equality as I can...
...won't those things have a trickle-down, lasting impact on the world that may truly make a difference? If we all do this in whatever it is we're trying to accomplish, won't we all shine together?
I'm going to finish this post with the sentiment that ended the journal entry that inspired it. "Breathe. Breathe in the vastness of it all, and breathe out with the willpower to seek it."****
*I can't tell you how confusing it is to live in the age of social media and balance the act of posting content: How frequently do I need to post? Should I wait longer, put fewer things out there but make sure they're quality and in line with my current aesthetic? Am I coming off as a hopeless narcissist to the world? Am I destroying my career by not waiting until I'm great/ready? The irony of talking about this in a blog is not lost on me, in fact, I think I may need to dedicate an entire future post to these questions.
**This beautiful energy of love and connection that I can't seem to put into words, despite being made aware of its existence at various points in life. I'm not exactly religious, but usually just call this "the one" or "oneness," and whatever it is, I have a feeling it's at the very center of all my goals and aspirations in life, material or non-material.
***Part of me truly does believe that, despite all of the darkness, we are actually in a better place than humanity has ever been in history. I think some of the fucked up social inequalities in the world are becoming more and more clear to more socially enlightened folk, and so it seems like things are really bad. But it's also such a strong part of the human condition to doomsay (if that's not a verb I'm making it one)- to think that things are worse than they've ever been and the world is ending tomorrow. We need to keep hope and spread the light and beauty in the world to overcome the darkness- but this also deserves its own blog post.
****My god does quoting oneself feel narcissistic!