Admitting that I don’t really know who I am has made my life so much easier. Admitting that I do not know the extent to which I am fundamentally unknowable has made my world so much simpler. Admitting that my desires and motivations, though they have roots in my history and the narrative I’ve tied to it, also have roots that go deeper and darker, roots which will forever refuse to be dug up and exposed to light, makes things so much more straightforward.
A personality is something that spans time, cobbled together from each individual act, be it cruel or of charitable, and we can only perceive its shape by the bits that jut out from the surface and prod us. No matter how well you know someone, you barely know them.
Why it’s important to acknowledge this: If you pretend to know yourself, you only constrain yourself. If you know who you are and how you behave, that is all you can be or do. If you know your limits and never test them, you will never be a better person than you are right now. It is so incredibly easy to become trapped in history, to become a slave to the person you believe yourself to be – admitting you have only the vaguest idea why you do the things you do and say the things you say becomes a form of empowerment.
This is not avoiding accountability. It is the opposite: You cannot hide behind some traumatic personal history, some origin story, some demographic pablum, to justify behavior. All of that is still important, to you, to us, as history and as narrative, but it cannot be the justification for current behavior.
I suppose this message is trite. I suppose that surviving misfortunes is what we expect of our protagonists. Yeah, we talk so often about surviving the misfortunes, but sometimes it’s the fortunes that destroy us: The lottery ticket money-wave tsunami that wipes away the poverty personal identity around which a life was constructed, washes away friends and family, eradicates life-goals – the prestigious partnership that demands 12 hours a day, 12 hours sitting at a desk knees aching and eyes going weak and nearsighted, say it over and over, “I want this, I want this, I chose this, I chose this” – the big break, becoming the hot new act, and there’s drugs, and there’s girls, and everything is loud, and THIS IS WHAT A PARTY IS THIS IS HOW FUN IS HAD THIS IS WHAT THE BIG BOYS DO WHEN THEY MAKE IT BIG THEY MAKE IT LOUD–
The fate which eats you could come from anywhere. It could be a dream or a nightmare. It could be a car crash or a promotion, a mugging or a tax refund. Any one of these could be the first word in an erroneous story of who you really are.
How long will it be before you realize? When will you see that the story of you has gone all wrong? Or will they just write it, under your name and above a little poem, on a slab of granite, in a field, someday?