Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Are We? - Jessica Inclán

Here's the question for the day: Can we be different people when we are with different people? Or are we--across the board--the same?

Are our personalities consistent, invariable, true and honest barometers of our souls?

Here's the thing: a person who shall go nameless and I are having a verbal tussle. Basically this person called me a number of fine adjectives, and the conversation ended. This person and I have had long had such conversations, and invariably, I end up being a very bad person.

And yet, within minutes of this email conversation, wherein I was told to say hi to Damian upon my death, another person emailed me to tell me I was a good person. Another person wrote to tell me I was a pleasure to be with, and this person was my mother.

So who in the heck am I?

As a friend recently told me, "It's not about you."

Fine. I get it. We are all spinning around here on the planet in our own little bubbles. But we learn to understand ourselves based on the reactions and responses of others. It's like a discussion I often have about character with my students: we learn about characters based, in part, on what other characters say about the main character. How the other characters react, respond, and relate to our main character shows us a great deal about that character.

Shouldn't that be true about people?

I have always been relatively naive. You can tell me you climbed Mt. Everest, and I will believe you for a while, asking you about your Sherpas and the thin atmosphere. You can lie to me about your excellent love life, and I won't get it for a few days, when I realize you haven't had a date in twenty-five years. My initial response is to take what you say at face value, which isn't actually a good thing. A little discernment out of the shoot can be a survival tool. Sadly, this response on my part goes to the words people use about me. Am I the devil? Am I a good person? Discuss amongst yourselves.

As a public person (professor, a writer) I am often publically discussed—people write things about me and post them on web sites. Happy readers, disgruntled readers—happy students, disgruntled students: all have something to say. I’m reviewed by people I don’t know, and sometimes those public comments sting, cutting to the quick. For a moment, we believe what we read. But like my friend said, "It's not about you."

What is about us is how we do or don't let the words in. Good or bad, we need to let the words fall away. We are who we are, judgment cast aside. It's all about us inside, not outside. It's in here we need to know who we are, and that, my friends, is often the hard part.


Donna Alward said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. I can really relate and it's hard to be confident about who you are on the inside, isn't it! Especially when someone attacks you personally. All those doubts come creeping back.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan said...

Hi, Donna--

Yes, it's amazing how fragile our sense of self can be! I keep trying to work on it.

thanks for your comments.


Michele L. said...

Oh I know what you mean Jessica. It hurts when someone insults you or says something mean. I always remember how many people love me for who I am and it bolsters my confidence in myself. Also, animals love you unconditionally and spending time with them is a very calming experience that leaves you with a renewed sense of self.