So, For the past two years or so, I've been trying to be "incognito." Now I once again want to be incog-NEATO! (oh god, please make me stop!) But seriously, identity can be a slippery eel that's hard to keep a grip on.
I had a dream when I was a young whippersnapper that my life would be interesting and exciting. The price one pays for this is facing a greater number of challenges, both internal and external. When I was younger, my battles always seemed to be external: Me vs. the world and other people. With age, the battles became more internal: me vs. me vs. me. The downside of an "interesting" life is that it has to change all the time and you have to change with it.
Often, when I'm in transition between one "self" and another, I withdraw into a sort of neutral place and re-emerge when I feel like I'm on steady footing. Often the transition involves rejecting the past self. Sometimes I have this visual picture of myself from one year to the next, all the me's standing side by side, then I see all the me's make a 45 degree turn to the right and slap the preceding one upside the head. And so I rejected the past self.
Only problem is: then I started thinking "but wait! my past self DID have so much fun! I STILL WANT THAT!" and so, in the process of rejection, there was a sort of re-integration. Thank god, because this "neutral" phase has gone on for almost three damned years.
Much of my problem stemmed from placing my "self" out there for public consumption. I made myself a "brand;" and not only my social life, but my career was tied to it. I chafe under the pressure of having to behave a certain way and live up to specific expectations and when I perceived the "expectation" as coming from some anonymous consciousness in the outside world, I started hiding inside.
Now, being "incognito" has been kind of a lovely learning experience in itself. When I was a kid, I felt like an outsider involuntarily... I was "different" and didn't want to be. When I was a young adult, I decided to be "different" on purpose. It became very important to me to be seen and to express myself in everything I did. Once that became a duty instead of a privilege, it just wasn't as fun anymore. It felt burdensome. I didn't want other people to be telling me who "myself" was. I went from "freedom" meaning being able to express myself to meaning I didn't have to express myself.
These incognito years were my chance to feel what it's like to be "normal." I mean, there's only so "normal" a person can be in New York, but I just tried to be as neutral as possible. I still have a certain "physical expressiveness" (aka: awkward nerdiness) that gives me away, but if I dressed normal, I could get away with it. It was nice not to be pre-judged. It was nice to be able to conceal or reveal myself willfully. It was nice to feel invisible. It was nice to be happy letting other people shine instead of clamoring for the spotlight. It was nice to watch from the outside for awhile.
Now I'm trying to take the timeline of my life and take all the disparate parts and re-assemble them into some integrated whole of who I am now. I'm also trying to balance the negative and the positive. I've always veered between either extreme. Either from the egotistical "I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW HOW GREAT MY LIFE IS!" to the paranoid: "Oh god...everyone just thinks I'm a name-dropping attention whore! Maybe I'm giving the wrong impression!" And the problem when you "put yourself out there" is that people will confirm both sides. Trouble was, I was at the point where I was like "I CAN'T BE WHAT YOU WANT ME TO BE! I WILL ONLY DISAPPOINT YOU! I CAN'T TAKE THE PRESSURE!"
So, yeah, self-re-assembly. Stay tuned.