To Be… {warning: excessive rambling ahead}

Identity is a funny thing. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset of you are what you do. In college, I was a Journalism major who was also a barista. Immediately after college, I was a freelancer who was also a caretaker. I’ve been a magazine editor, financial advisor representative, waitress, and now I’m back to being a writer&barista. That seems to be my lucky combination.

Western culture puts so much of an emphasis on individual and self. You’ve got to do something, be something, create something outside of yourself to have meaning in life. There’s a continual process of micro-evolution, of analyzing, trouble-shooting, and always carefully reshaping your life.

 “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: I must create!” — William Blake

That seems to be the mantra of my generation. Everyone is an artist of some sort.  I know a few engineers and accountants (who are pretty cool, not very artistic but awesome just the same) but for the most part, we’re in the art business. Everyone is a writer, photographer, fashion designer, graphic designer, actor/model, singer, musician, or aspiring filmmaker. Many are their own blend of the above – once you’re into the arts, the lines get blurred. Everyone wants to be different, just like everyone else.

One reason that identity is so fascinating is that while you let it define you, you can also define it. For instance, the life of a starving artist sounds glamorous. My friend K and I were talking about this last month. She brought up the point that no one shows the mundane parts of their life. The bad hair days, the acne flare-up days, or the days when you don’t look glamorous, you just look like yourself. Managing personal PR has never been easier.  If you’re part of the artist set, it isn’t hard to begin with. We create ourselves by the photos we edit, the textures we put in our films, and the words that we choose. Work and play often intermingle for us so we know how to weave our skills into public imagine.

All of us live magical lives, at least on Facebook and other social media sites. We play, we sparkle, we talk about the many wonderful things we do but never really what we are. You’ll see plenty of status updates like:” Caitlin Muir is soooooo happy because life is wonderful and everyone loves her.” Well, not exactly like that. But you almost never see things like: “Caitlin Muir is feeling overwhelmed and slightly insecure.” Or “Caitlin Muir bombed the test. She should have studied instead of wasting her time online!”  Everyone has great or amazing times. It’s like the emotional roller coaster is always climbing higher. Nothing is so-so.

So if we’re all living these glamorous virtual lives, what do our real lives look like? If we’re writing our own scripts, does that make us actors in our own lives?

Sometimes, I take issue with my life. I have a notion of what I should do based on how I want people to see me. I get frustrated that I don’t own a home or a nice car. That I’m still in the US when I wanted to go back to Europe for a year or two. And that I’m back working as a barista, which is actually a very nice job, when I want to be a full-time writer with major publishing houses fighting over my manuscripts. You can’t say that I don’t dream big. I may also have entitlement issues but that would be another post for another time. Or maybe never.

Another quote has been running in my head lately. I saw it on a friend’s facebook page of all places and it’s been stuck, rattling around and challenging me.

“We’re in grave danger when we let our accomplishments become the ground of our confidence.”
– Leonard Ravenhill

 That’s been tweaking my thinking. Or rather, reshuffling it back to where it was before I went to college and got started in this crazy journey of doingvs. being and real life vs. carefully cultivated identity. It’s easy to think that if my resume looks nice, my life must be nice as well. But resumes are for jobs and not for life. Things that look good on paper don’t always translate well in the real world. You can’t photoshop or spell-check life. My character isn’t defined by where I’ve been or what I’ve accomplished. My character is defined by who I am, what I believe, and who I love.

See,nI told you it was rambling.


2 Responses to “To Be… {warning: excessive rambling ahead}”
  1. sandysays1 says:

    Hmmmm, I like philosophical messages. Particularly, when it comes to justifying why we draw air. One of the best I’ve heard was from an old southern farmer. “Life is kinda like ownin’ a new plot of ground. If’n you worry to much about what you’uns are gonna plant or what the neighbors are a doin’ in their ground, ain’t nothin’ gonna happen. (punctuate with a comma shaped spit of tobacco juice) You’uns are better off if’n you jus’ stick the plow in, pull it best you can, and throw some seeds down. Least ways you’ll get somethin’ out of it.”
    Or as Confucius said, “Life is simple, it is man that complicates it.” But, as a canine I guess I shouldn’t be commenting on human things.

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