Who Are You?

The columnist delves into the difference between how others may see us and who it is that we truly are, as well as our amazing propensity to mimic one another rather than finding our own unique identity.

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

 

And the people in the houses all went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same.

And there’s doctors and lawyers and business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

 

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,

And they all have pretty children and the children go to school.

And the children go to summer camp and then to the university,

Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

 

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

Little Boxes – Words and music by Malvina Reynolds. Copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company

 

I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit; a trait that has, at times, cost me dearly – relationally, professionally and monetarily. But the thing about being a free spirit is this; those things don’t bother me. Please hear what I’m saying, they don’t bother me; that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. Those are two distinctly different things.

I’ll admit there have been more than a few relationships in my life that have fallen by the wayside; relationships I wish could have been saved; friends I loved; people whose company I greatly enjoyed. But too many times I felt the pressure to be someone I was not – a phony – a plastic man. At times I thought maybe it was me; that I was the problem; that I needed to change. But I was merely trying to justify continuing that particular relationship; a relationship based upon my ability to please the other person, to be the Bob they wanted me to be. That’s not relationship. That’s a one way street or, more accurately, a dead-end street. It doesn’t work.

I’ve experienced the same issues professionally. I have very specific gifts and talents; talents that I’m happy to share. When I’m contracted for a specific job, my employer is asking me to exchange my talents and abilities for monetary remuneration. That’s how it works. That’s our system.

But again, I have frequently experienced the one way street/dead end street syndrome; employers who are out for themselves with no concern for the well-being of the employee; users who want every ounce of sweat they can get and maybe just one ounce more, without fair compensation. I believe that’s called greed, not relationship.

So, assuming that this situation is not fixable; that this relationship is not salvageable; what’s the solution? For the free spirit there is only one solution. Move on!

But this does not come without sacrifice. I’ve left many a job and forfeited my fair share of cash because I’ve refused to acquiesce; refused to change who I am to feed someone else’s avaricious appetite.

I don’t believe that any of who I am has much to do with me. That may be a bit confusing so let me explain.

When I was in my teens I was both an athlete and a musician. I played football for five years, from the eighth grade (yes, schools had the funds to field an eighth grade team back then – go figure!) through my senior year of high school. I was also co-captain of my track team. I started playing sports from the time I was old enough to hold a baseball bat.

I started playing the trumpet in fifth grade and continued up until my senior year of high school when, much to the dismay of many, my parents in particular; I quit quite abruptly. Why? I didn’t want to be a Band Brownie, the derogatory term used by some for members of the band. Being a Band Brownie didn’t fit well with my persona as a jock.

You see, I felt pressure from both camps. The athletes saw me as a jock and the kids in the band saw me as a Band Brownie. The strangest part of the whole thing was that I never felt like a member of either group. I had severe dissociative disorder! I had no idea who or what I was! One of them had to go; for my mental health if nothing else. I chose to drop out of the band – concert band, jazz band, and marching band – everything – a clean break. The sad part is, I didn’t feel any more like I fit in with the jocks than I had previous to quitting the band.

This was my first lesson in self-realization. Years later I would discover that this decision, although a great learning experience, was a terrible mistake. I had given up music, something I loved, for athletics, which I also loved, and that’s a choice I never should have had to make. I could have had them both; but I didn’t want to be seen as a Band Brownie. I’d made my decision based upon what I thought others might think about me.

But now I’m me. Like it or not, and some don’t, I’m me. I need not fit in with any group. I don’t have to put on airs or act a certain way. I don’t have to be a chameleon, changing to fit in with my surroundings. I don’t have to impress anyone, nor do I feel the need to have everyone like me; that’s their decision, not mine. I’m me and I’m very happy being who I am.

I’ve never understood the concept of knowing exactly what you want to do in life at an early age. My friend, Karen, told me that she had wanted to be an attorney since the sixth grade and another friend, Debbie, said she knew she wanted a career in business when she was in high school and chose to pursue a career as a CPA at age twenty.

That makes absolutely no sense to me! None! I really don’t get it! What is it that’s seemingly inherent in Karen, Debbie and so many others that is not present in the rest of us? Is it a gift; a passion planted within their being? Is it merely a decision? Could it be some random genetic fluke?

In previous writings, I’ve referenced my propensity for ‘people watching’ being in direct proportion to my Starbucks budget. I’m there so frequently that the baristas, all young women, know me by name and know my drink of choice. My wife says I’m a flirt. I told her that a twenty-five-year-old girl would have no interest in an old guy like me. She laughed and said, “That’s for sure!”  I’m fairly certain that was not a compliment.

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or any place where there is a lot of foot traffic are great places for people-watchers to ply their craft. I love to observe; to size-up and analyze folks as they go about their daily business, and these places seem to bring in the most diverse assortment of people.

My fascination with people, their idiosyncrasies and behaviors, is something that’s been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. I was a psych major in college and I’ve worked at a mental health clinic in the past. A healthy curiosity as to why individuals do the things they do; observing – wondering what drives them – imagining what their lives are like – analyzing why they do the things they do is a tremendous asset for a writer; a tad creepy perhaps, but an asset none-the-less.

One thing I’ve never understood is why so many people want to look and act like everyone else. That baffles me. I’m not a psychologist nor do I play one on TV, and I’ve never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but this has always fascinated me.

I was a Hippie in the sixties. Yup, a full-fledged, dyed in the wool Hippie. Among the tenets of Hippiedom was that we rejected the accepted social and political values of the day. We didn’t want to be like everyone else – didn’t want to look like everyone else. Individualism ruled the day. Ironically, over time; we all started to look like, talk alike and act like one another. We had created our own counter-culture and that counter-culture became our prevalent culture, thus becoming the norm. It was no longer unique. Funny, huh?

An individualist, a true free spirit is a rare bird indeed – very difficult to find. True uniqueness defies categorization or labeling- being ‘put in a box’. You’ll notice in my opening I said – I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit – ‘bit’, being the operative word.

I’m a writer. Therefore I’ve declared myself as a member of the group, writers. I may be unique within that group, but by declaring myself a writer, I’ve given up, at least to some extent, a small piece of my individuality.

But my inner person, not my profession is who I am. My profession – a writer – is an extension of who I am, but it will never be my true self.

I write, but I’m Bob!

How do you see yourself? How are you seen by others? Have you been pigeonholed – categorized – defined by what it is that you do – as opposed to who you truly are – the you?

Who are you?

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

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