Sunday, January 9, 2011

Virtually reality

First entry for 2011—it feels like an important one. But I admit to not feeling up to the enormity of such a moment. Christmas, although I usually love the season, was more of a slog than usual this year. With family gatherings, which always includes family politics, I really got no writing done at all and that’s when I really get bummed out. More than that, I get irritable.

All that aside, I’ve decided to be a more authentic me this year. Life is so full of expectations from people. I find that, for the most part, people crave to know the real you until you actually show them some authenticity and then you find out what they really want is the fake you—the one that tells them what they really want to hear. And what they really want is assurance that you’re just like them—not odd or eccentric in anyway. They want to know that you’re rowing the same boat in exactly the same way, that you hate the same things and love the same things and have the same experiences and perspectives on the world. But it’s just not true.

I feel like most of my life I’ve been secretly myself and publicly whatever people want me to be. That’s not to say I’m not unique. I think people actually see me as unique, even a bit strange. Some even see me as likable. Others don’t quite know what to make of me. Mostly we call those people family.

This year I’m continuing on a trend I started last year, which is to be more and more myself, no matter the situation. It’ll keep me from worrying about people’s reaction to what I’m saying and doing. I never mean to offend anyone by what I say or do, or what I write, but then again, if they are going to be offended, then they’d best just do it and get it over with and, if possible, get over it.

I’m embracing my eccentricity this year. Owning my oddness. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can kiss my self-righteous, earnest, playful, artistic, sodden, unsorry arse.

I’m starting with this blog. I haven’t written much in it for the past year, except for the occasional mention of The Book and how plans for its imminent release into the world are going. I’ll continue to do that because mostly I’m hoping that those who read my fiction will also want to read the blog—it’s tough keeping up with it, but I consider it a bonus of sorts. Sure, I’ll use it as a place to work some stuff out, but it’s also meant to be entertaining.

Having said that, though, I feel I’ve restrained myself. When I started this blog—making it distinct from my academic blog which is mostly for students and academics—I promised myself, and readers, that this blog would show me for my true self. While I haven’t written anything false, I admit to also holding back—of virtually hog-tying myself because I didn’t quite know how to go about this—of how to make a clean break from “Professor Collins” to “writer Gerard Collins.” Fact is, they’re both me. But I’m different in a classroom than I am anywhere else. This blog—which I’ve renamed “Moonlight Sketches,” after the book itself—was supposed to represent all shades and variations of me and my authentic self, but instead it has become a mere store window where I say “There’s a book—hope you read it.”

But I want it to be more. It’s a tough transition from being one kind of public persona to being another kind of public persona. Fact is, I’ve always just been myself, no matter where I am. But sometimes, in some places, some people make you feel very uncomfortable when you’re just being yourself. Again, they don’t really want that from you, especially when they’ve gotten used to something else.

I don’t want to reassure anyone that I’m just like them. I’m not.

I mean, sure, I have worries and concerns, personal issues—things that keep me up and awake at night. My body ages like yours. I watch a lot of the same movies, read the same books (mostly), and generally am human in every basic way. In fact, it would be tough for me to be a writer without being able to understand and empathize with your/our species. It's one of the necessary tools of the trade. Plus, I do like being a member of the human race, warts and all.

But I’ve never known anyone quite like me. ("That’s just like me!" you might say. "I’m unique too! So that means we’re the same!")

Uh, no.

The only real justification for me to keep this blog going is because I am different and I have things to say that no one else would possibly care to say. More and more, I find that when I try to fit into certain groups, I don’t really belong. The goal for me is not to pretend—to just be who I am and hope that that’s good enough for people. It’s harder to do than it sounds, or so I think.

More on this another time.

Meanwhile, I also wanted to mention something else: The Facebook Experiment has been going on for two years now and has been fairly successful. With only a handful of exceptions, I have made a policy of not inviting people to be my friends, but accepting friendship wherever it is offered. I think it’s worked well and, for the most part, I will continue in that vein. Again, it allows for, and even fosters, a more authentic connection for me—if people seek me out, it means they are genuine in their desire to be friends or good acquaintances, or even professional connections. To me, it’s all good. And I do realize that it seems a bit snobbish, but for someone such as myself who is so unsure of people’s real intentions, it’s best that I keep it this way for now. If anyone is reading this and would like to join me on Facebook, by all means do. I would love to hear from you and would genuinely embrace your friendship. I toy daily with the idea of leaving Facebook, but I know I won’t. I have too much fun there. And even there, the experiment continues—to be more and more authentic, to let no one stomp on my freak flag, to entertain a few people, to let people know I care about the world and thus let them know, by example, I think it’s okay to care.

It’s a cynical age. It’s dangerous to be seen as serious or caring. You risk much.

But at least it’s real. And it’s worth the risk.


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