Be a Person, Not a Persona

I’m not going to start this with “2020 sucks”. We’re all here, and we all know that. I’m not going to talk about race, or wealth, or religion, or education, or ablism, or entitlement. The labels are out in force this year, and the negative impact of their dividing nature is ridiculously self-evident.

I’m not going to make you laugh today, even though we all need it. I’m not going to tell you about my latest improbable mishap, or post photos of the entire cup of coffee I spilled yesterday morning.

What I’m going to talk about is you, the actual you, not your pitch, or your promo, or your hustle, or your SoundCloud.

I’m sure you’ve heard the unanswerable question, “Who are you?” posed by armchair psychoanalysts before. No matter what answer you give, it will always be discarded as a “role”, and not the real answer. Your name is a label… so is your job, nationality, your marital status, your gender, your sexual preference, your political affiliation, your choice in sport teams, your hobbies, and your music tastes. Literally anything you think to “define” yourself as is a marketing point, not your identity. The question is designed to frustrate you, but also to illuminate the fact that, by default, you can only describe yourself in relation to someone or something else.

Daughter, Sister, Mother, Wife, Girlfriend, Employee, Boss, Cripple, Coach, Fan, Creator, Goddess, Fool.

So how do you figure out the “right” answer? How do you pull yourself out of a marketing algorithm that is intentionally molding you into a more loyal and unquestioning consumer? How do you break out of a system you were born into, when you can’t even see the walls? (I promise, this isn’t The Matrix.)

Believe it or not, this year, through its chaos and strife, has been your best opportunity to give it a go. We’ve all been forced to make changes this year, even the people who claim they haven’t because they’re too afraid of being afraid. For some of us, there was too much change, too fast, and we bucked it. For some of us, the only real difference was that other people were getting a small glimpse into our everyday lives.

When under sustained stress, and facing questions of survivability, it’s easier to see what really matters, and what we can do without. It’s easier to see the difference between wants and needs when resources are limited, and a lack of practical skill becomes obvious when the other people you had paid to do those skills are no longer available. This is a learning moment. This is a time to look at who you are, not what you are.

If you strip away your job, your family, your friends, your interests, what keeps you going? What motivates you? If your only motivation is to get those things back, are you nothing but nothingness? A hollow, pointless void? For some, the answer is yes, and a lifetime of consumption is enough to keep them just on the edge of existence: almost real, but leaving no gaps with their departure. Those people never made it to this paragraph, because their infinitesimal attention spans expect the answers to precede and outnumber the questions.

But for you, the one who still remains, think about this: after all of this chaos has choked or calmed, regardless of whether you rode the storm or sheltered against it, other people will have seen who you are, not what you are. They will have learned where you stand, where you bide, and where you fight. They will have witnessed how you treated yourself and others when you were cornered or confident. Ask these people who they saw, and you will finally meet yourself. – K