I was thinking back last night to my teenage self, who I saw myself as, how I imagined others saw me. I knew who I was and I wanted everyone else to know it too. Identity was something substantive, sculpted, rigid. I unabashedly loved anime, video games and angry music. I dived head first into fandoms as an easy way to find “my people”, but also for instant self-classification. Acting was one of my passions and, buoyed by a bunch of other drama aligned friends, pushed myself to get involved wherever possible. I knew I wasn’t a sportsperson, I never owned a modicum of “cool”, so I didn’t try. I defined myself by my intelligence and wanted others to see it. I was the loud guy, centre of attention. I had that kind of rigid conviction only the young possess. The manner of being so entrenched in your opinions that anything outside them is not only flagrantly wrong, but basically shouldn’t exist. I’d shoot my mouth off and not even ask forgiveness later, I’d just double down and stick with my position long after it was impossible to see it as anything but misguided. My identity was this fixed point and god forbid I’d stray from it for even a second. That’d be like admitting like I’d made a mistake with my tunnel vision and, as we know, I’d never admit a mistake.
Obviously with the gift of reflection, it’s easy to see all of this laid bare. I was desperate to secure my place in the world because I couldn’t admit I was lost and seeking security. If I knew who I was then I’d know how to handle everything that came my way. Simple. Flawed.
I look back at how I defined myself all those years ago and see so little of it reflected in the mirror. I haven’t watched anime in ages, I hardly make the time for video games and the music I listen to has broadened dramatically. I still love being the centre of attention (some things don’t change), but I don’t push for it so desperately. I’ve relaxed with time and I care less about how others see me and even how I define myself. Conversely, the thought of being easily labelled frightens me now. To be seen so narrowly based on a few interests seems like a disservice to everything I’ve lived to this point. The thought of putting myself out there as an authority on any topic is horrifying. The recurring realisation as I grow is how little I really know about anything. Rather than instilling hopelessness, it’s become comforting to know how infinite the possibility of learning and developing is.
The one aspect that sticks out from my recollection is how performance no longer plays a part of my day to day. Ask anyone in my life right now and it’ll be the last thing they’d mention. I feel that, the void of something that once held so much importance. There’s a wick that goes unlit awaiting that spark to catch once more. For a while I thought stand up could fill that hole until I gave up at the first hurdle. I’m getting the creative outlet I need from simply writing here, but there’s no vessel for the restless energy that goes beyond the keys. It’s a tangible need that’s not being fed and it seems nocuous to let that build up.
I may not desire to define my identity, but that doesn’t mean I should stifle it.