So, who defines you?

27 03 2012

I had someone ask me today what I would tell a younger version of myself, if I had it to do over again.
I told her I would tell myself to not let other people define me.
We are all socialized from such a young age to be that person others want to see in us – this girl is “sweet”, that boy is “active”, this girl is “angry and uncooperative”, that boy is “sullen” or “shy”. We get told what we like to do, what we should be when we grow up, who we should like and not like, how we should behave.
Sure, a lot of this is part of being civilized from our basic uncivilized monster ways as children. A lot of it, though, is being made into a vision of what someone else wants.
I used to want to be a vet, but was talked out of that, a career that would have made me happy. I wanted to be a scientist, but got talked out of that. I wanted to have a lifelong career, but got thrust out of that. Now I write stories that inevitably turn out murderous or sad, yet I’m a happy, cheerful person. People tell me I should write funny stuff. I can’t. I feel badly for disappointing them.
Others tell me I should do this or that and even here, in my 50’s, and knowing better, I find myself trying to meet their requests. Or feeling badly when I cannot.
Why?
My whole life I’ve been a bit of an outlier, always a bit on the side of oddness. Doesn’t help that I’m unusually short and a bit round, have a twisted sense of humour, and dress for comfort, not speed. Not your average girl, I spent a lot of my time on the side of dance floors and waiting out events. I learned to push myself hard, but I cheated myself out of so many adventures after the years of being outside, for fear of being totally alone.
If I could talk to younger me, I’d say – hey, fitting in doesn’t really matter. It’ll kill you in the end. Be who you are and people will gather around you –
if only to point and laugh.
But you’ll still be the centre.
Lately, my MS has forced me to make changes in my life, changes that seem odd or unpredictable or outright strange to others. One person told me I made choices out of fear; another that I made choices out of optimism. I of course prefer the latter view. I like to think that I choose paths based on overly optimistic views of my capabilities and then have to readjust them as my disease intrudes, dang it.
The fact remains that I make choices, I change the things I don’t like, I cut away dead branches, I fertilize growing ones. There may not seem to be a plan, but I’m planning around earthquakes. I have to be flexible.
And I guess I need to say, though I talk about my plans, unless I ask for your advice, I don’t want it. We are all trying to define ourselves within our realities, and I’ll respect your choices if you respect mine. I just can’t waste any more time being defined by others.
Fair warning: I plan to become eccentric. Stand back.

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3 responses

27 03 2012
Cathy MacKenzie

Ooh…absolutely love the NEW you!! ha ha ha

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27 03 2012
Crowing Crone Joss

YES! YES! YES!

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31 03 2012
Anonymous

from my viewpoint your choices have been made out of optimism and a great deal of courage and good judgement.

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