Have you ever been in search of an identity? Or maybe a different identity?
I don’t mean actually changing your name and birth certificate and all the shady stuff we see dramatized on some of those murder shows. I’m simply talking about something you’re known for.
It’s well documented that I once thought I was gangsta. And I still do love gangsta rap. I also went through my hippie stage…and, considering I still believe in peace and harmony and community and healing through acoustic music, maybe I still am, even if I haven’t worn tie dye in a few decades.
Even as recently as my early 30s, I took on a pretty staunch political identity. The world in which we lived in the mid 2000s seemed designed to make us join up with radicalized sides of American politics. There were no grey areas and most of us were conditioned not to fit into them anyway.
When I think back on these times, some are funny, some are embarrassing, some are just weird. And probably not the ones you think.
So, A.D.D. story: I minored in criminal justice stories. I’ve read many books on prison and the lives of prisoners. The world of incarceration is fascinating to me; specifically the American “corrections” system that, at best, is only effective about 20% of the time.
A couple weeks ago, I caught an episode of John Oliver’s show. It’s only the second or third time I’ve caught his show and, if you know anything about him, you know he’s a satirist who makes screw out of just about everyone and everything…except, that often, he’s not even having to make up comedy. The things in the media are just that absurd that there’s not much work.
In this episode, he did a pretty extensive report on American prisoners. He, in fact, brought an ex con on for an interview. I thought his line of questioning was really insightful. In essence, Oliver said that we all want to be known for something. The fellow he was interviewing obviously has more to his life story than being a former inmate, yet he was a little caught off guard by Oliver’s question, “Everyone has at least three things about them that are interesting. What would you rather have people know about you?”
The ex con’s answer? “I grow tomatoes.”
He also went on to say how he doesn’t want to be judged for what he used to be. “I want people to look at me as the person I am now,” he said.
Isn’t this what we all want? To be known for who we are now, not who we were at the worst times in our lives? I sure do, but I also understand that there is always going to be one thing I can’t shake: my history. Yet, instead of the kid who got blinded in a car wreck, I’d rather be known as the guy who has become a successful entrepreneur. I’d rather have people know I’m a guitar player rather than the massive amount of trauma I suffered. I’d rather talk about books and reading than stuff that happened two decades ago. Not that I ever mind talking about my history. I guess that, just like this ex con, there’s more to me than just that one story.
As always, I want to encourage you, faithful reader, to look deeper than just the outside stories of others. You’ll probably find some more interesting aspects in human relationships.