a mosaic of self

I have been doing a lot of traveling over break, visiting old friends that I haven’t seen in ages. I’m not the best at regular phone calls and keeping up with people, so it’s a good thing these friendships are the kind where you can pick up wherever you left off and things feel just like last time. This sense of comfort and familiarity is a lovely thing. Particularly in today’s culture, when so many people move around to totally new places: for work, for love, for scenery, for fun: it is nice to be back with people who have known you longer than the year or two you’ve been living in a new place. However, those same friends have also missed some of the latest things in your life, in your growth. I often don’t realize what they’ve missed because in that time of reuniting, we are transported back to the times we were together. Sometimes it’s directly, through the “Remember When?” game, or indirectly, through the patterns that the two of us have established together. Kind of like couples, friends can develop “scripts” and “roles” together. You act this way, and I act this way. When you say that sort of thing, this is how I respond. We generally don’t even realize we do this.

However, this has caused me to reflect on whether or not I feel like my real “self” in my old friendships. Perhaps it’s just my rosy backward-looking glasses, but didn’t I used to be so much more silly and carefree in college? Now I feel more serious, more thoughtful. Didn’t I laugh so easily back then? Wasn’t I so adventurous that year I lived in Boston, when the city was my oyster and the T could take me almost anywhere I wanted to be? Where did that girl go? And who am I now?

Likewise, I see myself “be” different people when I am talking to different people. With my roommates, I can be goofy, using silly voices and talking about ridiculous things. Is that me? With one friend, I am slowly drawn to excitability, feeling like a contrast to her animation until it finally infects me too. With another, I am steadfast and hardworking, stable and consistent. Is that me? With another, my more nurturing, but also sensitive and emotional, and easily hurt, side comes out. Can that be me, too?

In my current life, I often feel “overly responsible”: the type of person willing to do not only their own tasks, but probably other people’s tasks as well, if need be. (By the way, this is not ideal for me nor for the other person, whose own sense of agency I can take away when I do things for them). With my family, I sometimes feel “under responsible”: fuzzy-minded, letting them decide what’s going to happen, just going along for the ride. Is it just regression when you return home after being away?

I realize I’m not an open book. I share certain information with certain people. Some people are for discussing romantic relationships, but only as far in as I allow. Some people are for politics, or science. Some for daily life happenings. Some for religion. Some people I allow in to hear my real thoughts on spirituality. I am a fragmented glass, a mosaic of color. My colors look different depending what part you focus on. A different light reflects depending what angle you stand away from me. I seem to be divided, yet I am one person.

Who am I? I wondered today, feeling almost deceptive with the many faces I can wear, even though I’m not trying to intentionally deceive anyone, yet genuinely confused as to which is my “true” self. Then the phrase “true self” rang a bell, and I suddenly realized: it’s just personality. Who are YOU? My personality is like my exterior, my shell. It’s the way that I interact with the world. There are a lot of protective and defensive mechanisms I use to feel secure, and I developed certain habits in order to win praise, affection, or a sense of okay-ness from other people. That’s not my real self. My real, true self is not my personality. My personality is not all bad – I can be funny, sweet, helpful, kind – but it’s also not everything I am. And sometimes, the sharp edges of my mosaic-piece personality cut my own, or others’, fingers. I am beyond the faces you see. I am beyond the faces I see, the things I know about me that other people don’t, the contradictions that don’t even make sense to me. I am beyond the attachments that lead to hurt feelings or joy, jealousy or security. My core essence is rooted in something far beyond the way I always think about myself.

Think of it this way. Through a glass mosaic, or a stained glass, the colors are mixed and beautiful. But the colors only do their thing because of the light that is behind it. The true self is like that white light (which is really all the colors on the spectrum) that shines and illuminates all else. The mosaic is made of disparate glass pieces that can be beautiful, but are not in themselves illuminative. I need to stop confusing the glass with the light. It’s just personality. My true self is like that illuminating light.

Splash Image

http://artglassmosaics.com/home.html

One thought on “a mosaic of self

  1. My guess is that I know the real instigator of the “remember when?” game when you get together with friends. I sense some sadness in the way you reflect on the relative seriousness of your present lifestyle and your being overly responsible in doing tasks for others in your current relationships, taking away their agency. Those sound like painful realities for you to acknowledge.

    I’d like to challenge you a little, if I can, on your thoughts about the colored glass of the various faces you present in life and the pure, white light of your true self. Surely you are right that there is something more stable and rich in the core of your being where there are no two faces. But there is something of that one face even in the many faces you present in this life, a goodness that your various friends get to see in diverse ways. Maybe each face you wear is not as plugged into your true self as you would like, but neither can your true self always be completely disconnected from your many faces. Indeed, if there were no interplay between your true self and the many faces, you could never have any sort of real ownership of your life, nor your true self grow. I believe even your many faces can have a certain level of authenticity about them, and increasingly so.

    Your reflection about how your (our) personalities change in response to the personalities around us is thought-provoking and insightful. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s