There’s a bike parked permanently by our work. It’s a little tattered, pale yellow. In the spokes of its back wheel is a piece of paper. It reads “In loving memory” or something of the like. Dedicated to its rider. I have no idea how long it’s been there. I’m not sure if The slip is actually paper, card or something laminated. In fact the only thing I’m sure of is that some dude rode this bike and it’s stuck around longer than he did. It’s a gesture that was done out of love. Of that I have no doubt. A desire for the ones he left behind to resonate how important he was to them in life. I don’t know this guy, but as far as I know, biking was pretty important to him.
I know nothing else about this bike. I’m not sure if the gesture was decreed in his will, but I’m guessing by his age this probably wasn’t the case. Seeing the bike my first thoughts were “isn’t that sad?” Followed by “aren’t his friends nice?” Followed by “geez, I hope that never happens to me.” Not death, that’s riding my back all the way to the end indiscriminate of my wishes. I hope that nobody ever says “welp, this is what Leon would’ve wanted” and builds a monument in my honour. Nobody else knows what any of us really want in a given situation, sometimes us least of all. It’s strangely presumptuous posthumously to think “they liked this thing. Let’s make it represent them to everybody who sees it from now on.” Does nobody else find it weird to have others deciding how you’re defined? That after you’re gone, ages come to pass and you’re just that individual who liked to bike?
We’re all infinitely multifaceted. We know that about ourselves and others know that about themselves. Sonder was the neologism created by the internet age to define the notion that this impression could go both ways. The thing is, we’re not everything to everyone. I’d wager that it’s a pretty rare individual who is authentically themselves all the time. There’s the fact that we assume roles banking on the path of least resistance (A.K.A. Letting things go at the office when Darryl is being officious and twerpy). We pretend to be a different self because it makes things easier or, rather, less convoluted. Sometimes things will go smoother if you don’t mention your aversions or doubts. You could have conflict, or you could let something that doesn’t mean a lot to you pass by and become forgotten. You could even be trying to avoid going deeper with people who mean very little to you. Your colleagues or netball team members don’t need to know about your part time metallurgy habit if you can’t be bothered answering questions. You might have friends you talk about anime with, others who are your basketball friends, a literal knitting circle (or crochet, I don’t discriminate). There could be no cause at all to blend these groups, so why would you even try?
A write. It’s one of the things I do. It’s not the only thing I do and it’s very far from a thing that defines me. To some people though, that’s my identity. If there’s an afterlife and I was peering at the Earth I’d vacated, it’d bum me out to see a typewriter erected in my honour. On one hand, it’s nice to be thought of. On the other hand it’s a very small part of who I am, who I’ve been and how I’ve affected others. I think back to all the funerals I’ve been to where new information came to light. It’s kind of bittersweet. Knowledge that’d never been brought up that could’ve entirely changed how I saw that person. Instead they were the version of themselves they chose to present. It’s sad that I never got to meet that person.
I don’t know what the takeaway is. I guess it’d be nice to figure out who my authentic self is. To figure out how to be the person I want to be irrespective of the judgement I assume others hold. To be impossible for anyone to describe in a sentence. To make any monument seem daft, because any physical reminder would be missing the point.
People, I’m more than just a Smash Mouth link repository.