So it’s been a while, peeps and I’ve missed y’all! It’s been a crummy couple of weeks…not only did my Little Dot pass and I miss her every hour of every day, but I also found out I need a full hysterectomy and will be having the surgery on May 17th. The timing is blech. You see, I LOVE my break between spring and summer classes…and now I’ll be spending it on the couch with Bill and Ma taking care of me. Hmmmmm…them waiting on me hand and foot…getting me whatever I’m peckish for…doing all the housework. Actually, this may not be so bad after all! I’m just glad I’m finally going to feel better after feeling lousy since September. Whew! 😳
Anyhoot, my Intro to Sociology class had a discussion last week about statuses and roles: we occupy various statuses and play roles tailored for them. As Erving Goffman said, we’re on a stage when we’re with others and ‘dramaturgy’ is the word he used.
People don’t like this idea. “I don’t ACT…I’m always me!” BUT…then you ask them: “So, who are you?” And usually the answer comes in a ‘what’ form: I’m a professor. I’m a mama. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. You get the point. But that’s not really YOU…that’s just your statuses. Right? And yes, I play roles with my statuses; believe you me, I would never talk to ma the way I talk to my sissy. She’s probably plop over from horror. 🤨
So, let me ask you again: “Who are YOU?”
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot after grading the discussion and most of my students kept answering in terms of what they do. However, when I asked if we can ever REALLY (I’m into capital letters today…notice? 🙄) know our ‘true’ selves, most everyone said yes. Hmmm. That’s sort of a dichotomy though, isn’t it?
For me, I believe that we never get to know the ‘true’ soul inside of us and here’s why: from the second we are born, we are given statuses such as boy, girl, daughter, son, sister, brother, grandbaby, etc. Immediately we are a ‘what’ and we have absolutely no conscious awareness of a ‘who’ inside of us. We don’t know anything about anything at this point in our development! Now, when we do start being cognizant of ourselves, we’ve been so completely socialized into the above that these statuses have become a part of us. “I am a sister and daughter and friend and grand-daughter, etc.” THAT’s who I am.
Remember John Locke? He was the philosopher who used the term ‘tabula rasa’ for the first time in the 17th century (he and ma were great friends in high school…I think they still keep in touch 😐) and this basically means that we are born without any mental content at all. We are a blank slate or, as Locke put it, “white paper, void of all characters”. We are empty vessels needing experience and perception to start building up our awareness of the world…and of ourselves. Now, we have our own ways of interpreting these experiences and perceptions…that makes us unique individuals…but it’s a process. A learning curve.
I think about how many ‘people’ I’ve been. Not just in terms of statuses, but in terms of periods in my life where I’ve felt changes within me that have become a part of me. My parents divorce was probably the first time I could understand that life would never be the same from what I had known for 12 years and it made me look at the world a bit differently. A bit more guarded. A bit more understanding that things don’t necessarily last forever.
When I was bullied in high school, I learned that people can hurt you for no other reason than wanting too. That being good to others doesn’t mean they will be good to you.
I learned as a new mama to look at the world through someone else’s eyes while at the same time seeing dangers every where I went. “What could hurt my boy?” “Is this person safe for him to be with?” “Should I let him ride his bike alone to the park?” It’s like I became more open and more closed at the same time.
All of my relationships have shaped me in various ways…some good and some bad. I’ve certainly learned that I have a huge capacity for love…that I have a need for security…that I like being a part of a couple. But, I’ve also learned that people will lie to you…cheat on you…promise to keep a secret and then tell it anyway just to hurt you…leave you…use you…abuse you…etc.
Has this all shaped the ‘me’ inside? You betcha. I’m not the same today as I was 3 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago (that’s going back far enough…don’t want to give my age away 🙄).
Now, with this pandemic having been around for a year now, I’ve basically been at home by myself for a great majority of the time. My students and colleagues, who are my main source of social activity, are suddenly gone and I spend my time working on a screen and then around the house. Days will go by where the only person I talk to is Bill or ma. I thought this forced alone time would finally let me find the real me that’s supposedly deep inside. But it hasn’t. It has shown me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of, etc. but it’s not letting a ‘me’ come out.
And here’s what I’m thinking: that maybe my ‘me’ is already here. A conglomeration of all my experiences and perceptions and knowledge and trials since the beginning of my time. Maybe Kristi IS a professor and mama and daughter, etc. Maybe the me inside is the me I’ve created throughout the years. So…maybe the question we should ask ourselves isn’t ‘WHO are you?’ but ‘HOW are you?’ Hmmmmm…