One of the defining characteristics of the human animal is that of self-awareness, being able to understand the notion that we are an individual entity, a separate person, and are different and exist apart from other individual people and animals, or other given entities…we have a sense of “me” or “I,” and are likewise able to name “you” and “they” and “other.” When we look at those others and others who populate our lives, who accompany us in our temporal existences, we see and understand those others in the roles they play and the contexts in which they abide, sometimes as a continuous presence, and other times as singular or occasional appearances or presentations. We identify people and sometimes think of them only within the contexts that they appear in our lives. We forget that the mail-carrier is a mom or dad, sibling, child, or college class-mate of other people. They aren’t just the people who drive around in those little ass-backward steering-wheeled white jeep-type-truck things that deliver our bills and catalogues and letters and junk-mail…they are people who exist as we do, getting up in the morning, showering and shaving (?), making or buying coffee to drink on the way to work, rushing home or to the day-care provider to pick-up their child after work, buying groceries on their day-off…all those things, just like us…but we usually see them only in the roles they play. It makes us pause for a second to see the mail-carrier or postal employee who we normally only see behind the counter at the post office walking down the aisle in the grocery store in non-postal-worker clothes. They catch our eye and we search our brains for a second and then realize who they are…and we wonder for a second second if it’s weird that the postal employee buys Mountain Dew.
How often do we think about ourselves in relation to the others in our lives? How often do we see ourselves or examine ourselves as our siblings’ sibling, our parents’ child, our supervisor’s employee, or our employees’ supervisor, our child’s mom or dad, our neighbor’s neighbor, our professor’s student? When we do actually do that, though, what do we see? Who are we or what are we like as that “other” person in another person’s life? If we were to look outwardly from within their eyes, what and who would we see when we looked at ourselves? What things or aspects of ourselves would we still find appealing…what things would we suddenly not like…could we stand to be around ourselves if we were actually someone else watching us or living as a family member or co-worker of ourselves? How would we describe ourselves through that other person’s eyes? And then, how have we acted in the past to make them see us as they do…? What would they identify as our strengths and weaknesses? Where would they say we need improvement? Where would we say we needed improvement if we looked at ourselves, if we watched our interactions with others through those others’ eyes? Could we stand ourselves? Would we call ourselves a phony, a two-faced bitch, a back-stabber…or someone who was genuine, dependable, sincere, and respectful…all while being real?
What about when we look at ourselves through our own eyes? Who are we when we examine ourselves in the roles that we play? Who is that person who exists behind the façade of “Dad,” or “brother,” or “spouse or husband,” or “employee,” or “friend,” or “coworker”? How much of our true selves do we reveal to the other people in our lives? Do the characteristics that combine to make us “Dad” or “Mom” show themselves when we are in settings that demand that we conduct ourselves as “employee” or “boss” or “neighbor” or “student” or “bank-customer” or “citizen who got pulled-over by a cop for doing 45 in a 30”? Does our real persona show itself in all the social contexts in which we move and exist? When a person looks at us in one role, are they able to see or know how we behave or exist in one or all of the other contexts of our lives? Are we shallow in some settings and deep in others; are we obtuse or dense in crowded public settings and witty and intelligent in more private settings; are we tough and strong in one place and weak and needing protection in another; are we confident and fearless at work and meek and doubtful at home; or are we arrogant and cock-sure in front of our friends or at work in front of our employees and coworkers, but really a “fraidy-cat” when we’re home and among our intimates where we can let-down our guard? Are we really unsure of ourselves, unconfident, unfocused, unbalanced, lost and wandering in our deepest soul, but we put-on the opposite face and appearance when we’re out with anyone else and everyone else who crosses our path, intimates, familiars, or strangers?
So, who are you when the world looks away and you are only accountable to yourself? When the day is done and the house is quiet and you are alone with your thoughts and reflections, examinations and recriminations…who are you as you sit there in the dark and wonder at the faces on the wall, the family portraits and school pictures whose members’ faces are staring at you and the beyond…who are you? What ghosts come loose from their hiding places and moorings and remind you of the dreams that you put on hold or forsook for whatever reason? What pieces of yourself that you sacrificed along the way come out in the dark and dance and wave their hands and banners of “What about Me?” and ask where you went; where did you hide the promises you made to yourself about the things you’d do when…? And what injured child of yourself crawls into your lap and wonders what you learned since you were your own little self…and asks you why you didn’t do things differently?
Who did you turn-into as you were becoming who you have become? Who are you?