What Do Identity Politics Mean When You Don’t Have An Identity?

maskI had a friend in college who told me that statistically I didn’t exist. And maybe I don’t.

He said it because as an American I’m a bit of an anomaly. But the truth of his off-hand comment has lingered with me for years. Beyond the demographic categories I can’t escape, I’ve tried identities on for size—with varying degrees of accuracy.

But let me go back.

My childhood doesn’t fit me. The child I was is incongruent with how I see myself now. I know I lived through grade school, through college, through job after job after job. Through labels—grounds crew, barista, teaching assistant, cashier, first grader, freshman, senior, summa cum laude, employee of the month, girlfriend, single.

But was I any of those things? Was I an archivist? A graduate student? A partner? A mentor?  Continue reading

The Best Policy

When I’m not being sarcastic, I’m an honest person.

I’m usually tactful, but I can be blunt on occasion.

I get mixed reactions from this. I think it frightens some people. Not to mention, I think we’re so used to being lied to, people just don’t believe me most of the time. Of course, it’s also possible that I’m so good at being sarcastic that no one can tell the difference.

People always claim to value honesty, but I think that’s  a lie.

Honesty is scary.

Honesty is ugly.

Honesty can hurt.

One of the problems with being honest is that sometimes what is truthful in some circumstances isn’t truthful in other circumstances. Going back and reading my own old blog entries, I sometimes question my ideas and motivations behind them, even though they were honest when I wrote them.

Maybe that’s what’s so scary about honesty. If there is no absolute truth, then what’s true changes. With lies, we can construct an absolute truth and we can cling to it and let it protect us from the scary, the ugly and the painful.

I think the hardest person to be honest with is yourself. It’s hard to uncover all the layers of your ideas and influences and all the things that other people have told you that have shaped who you are. Sometimes I wonder, is there even anything left?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.

Self-Improvement is Masturbation

This is one of my favorite quotes from Palahniuk, because he’s right isn’t he?  We’re all just playing with ourselves.

On a cop show I saw once, there was a detective who was in a therapy session having the following conversation:

Detective: “There is a school of thought that says self-awareness leads to transformation.  I don’t believe that.”

Therapist: “So where does self-awareness lead?”

Detective: “To self-justification.”

This seems right to me.  People don’t really change.  I don’t know a lot about childhood development, but at some point, maybe around puberty,[1] we just become who we are going to be.  I was negative, skittish, introspective and liked to push the limits of authority when I was on the brink of adulthood.  And what do you know?  Nothing changes.  Though it is becoming more difficult for me to get along in the world as an adult.

I think maybe I’ve always been somewhat self-aware, maybe hyper-aware is more like it.  But this does not mean I have enough self-knowledge to not try to justify some of the choices I make or to not make excuses for myself.  I’m not even remotely close to having self-knowledge.  I like to think that we all have some idea of who we want to be, but it’s a lot easier to make excuses than to actually try to change.

Continue reading