“People should feel more as they become older, not less.”
– Page One Adventures
Introvert. Too talkative. Emotionally repressive. Intellectual. Stupid. Passive aggressive. Inability to express emotions verbally. Socially awkward. Eloquent. Anxious in social situations. Perfectionist. Head in the clouds. Works too hard. Depressive. Creative. Cliche. Imaginative. Communist. Feminist. Republican. Pro-life. Pro-gays. Anti-life. Anti-gays. Mexican. American. Middle Eastern. Indian. Racially ambiguous. Catholic. Did not want to do her first Communion. Musically inclined. Auditory learner. Partially deaf. Needs glasses. Immature. Insightful. Needs to work harder. Easily bored. Should have been aborted. When I became pregnant with you, I didn’t need to be on my medication anymore. Argumentative. First child syndrome. Older sister. Messy. Authoritative. Hippie. Responsible.
I think of you as a child because you’re always saying you’re too cold. You argue like a child. You argue like a textbook. Stop arguing back. You were like my lawyer when your mom and sister jumped on me over the smallest of things. Good daughter. Political black sheep. Too emotional. Honor student. Average. Below average. Above average. Condescending. Down to Earth. We all thought you would be the one who’d go places and do amazing things. Geek. Nerd. Needs to settle down. Get a real job. Do what you love. Unrealistic. Likes to win. Team player. Over-achiever. Frigid. Blames others. Under-achiever. Assumes all the blame. Devil’s advocate. Too physical. Overly optimist. Too pessimistic for her age. Too direct. Doesn’t get to the point. Adventurous. Recluse. Don’t pick her for the basketball team. Tall. Uncoordinated. Agile. Ugly. Pretty. Big nose. Too thin. Too fat. Unhealthy. Athletic. Overly analytical, to the point of detriment.
Too liberal. Serious. Needs to learn to laugh. Too conservative. Laughs too much. Cry baby. Unsophisticated. Intolerant. Aloof. Best friend. The worst. Impatient. Always so patient with clients. Leaps before she thinks. Thinks she knows everything. Pick her for the group project. Ask her to lower her grade on the chem exam so we can all be graded on the curve. Sit next to her on the day of the test. Ask her for the answer. Freak. Theoretical. Why are you studying something like Politics if you can out-perform the majors in the Geology department who have been studying this for years? Not detail oriented. Why are you studying Politics if you don’t even know what you want to do in the field? No self confidence. Overly subsumed by the details. Does all the extra credit. Does enough to get by in class. Humanities.
Needs improvement. A+. B. C. D. F. In danger of failing. Four eyes. Academic excellence. Witty. Boring. Caring. Thoughtful. Over dramatic. Shares pencils. Reads
a lot too much. Mean. Rude. Selfish. I hate you. Kind. Shy. Giving. Always there for others. I love you. Verbalizes complaints too much. Doesn’t say enough. Speaks her mind. Asset to the department. Asks management too many questions. Doesn’t like being told what to do. Goody two shoes always does what she’s told. She’s just always so cheerful. Why are you always so depressing? Failure. Successful. First baccalaureate degree holder in family. I’m glad I met you. What are you doing with your life?
This began as a writing experiment. What kind of character would I be if I had to write myself truthfully in a bildungsroman? Would I even want to be friends with myself? These are the echoes of characteristics/phrases that have been used to describe me or my life situation (as spoken to me by people I have met during my 23 years of life). I used family and friends. Teachers, professors, psychologists. From elementary school, junior high, high school. From college. Of course, from now as well. What we see as a positive trait and what we see as a negative trait will vary. Which is which?
So what is a character? What is a person? Are they simply a list of attributes, personal and physical, like the one above? Are they a spectrum that slides around on a three-dimensional graph? Is there a point of no return? It’s been an interesting journey, going through those memories of all those years and all those fights and laughs alike but I’m no closer to answering the set of questions that I originally posed myself. In fact, I’ve started to ask more questions than ever before. About myself and about others. About my relationship with myself and my relationship with others. How I perceive and am perceived in return.
How do we maintain a semblance of authenticity in a world that is constantly expecting more and more, that rejects who we are, and in some cases tries to fix us. Or depending on how you view it, tries to help us become better versions of ourselves? At what point do we draw the line between societal expectations and being “who we are”? At what point are we responsible for others, if at all? When as an adult you no longer exude the brimming excitement and curiosity of a child, does that mean you’ve successfully matured? Or are you dead inside? And if at twenty three you’re still too excited to embark on an adventure in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a prefecture with nothing but nature and rice fields, are you a childish adult who needs to grow up? Or are you simply trying to keep yourself alive inside? It’s so easy for media, for books, for specialists, for everyone to say “Be yourself” without truly exploring the full ramifications of such advice. Being yourself is just as likely to get you passed up for a promotion as it is to make you the hero of the next Pixar or Disney film. But more importantly…
…At what point, is it enough simply to be?