Being Me

There is more than one of me. This can be confusing.

I used to give training courses and presentations for a living. I could stand up in front of a room full of people I didn’t know and not feel in the least bit self conscious or nervous about public speaking. But, as soon as someone I knew was present, the whole thing felt quite different.

The problem, you see, was that in front of a group of people I was presenting a quite different persona. My mannerisms, my confidence, my cheery anecdotes were all part of the person who gave the training course and I felt uncomfortable, slightly embarrassed even, doing this in front of people who knew me as a friend and knew the version of me that drank with them in the pub. Worse still would be family or people who knew me when I was a kid. They’d seen yet another different me.

I’m finding the same sense of slight embarrassment about my writing. The me on the page is not the same me that’s in the pub. If you know me, or rather if you know the me that makes lame jokes or the me that throws scrunched up balls of paper at you when you fall asleep, then you might not recognise the me that wrote that book.

(Did you know I’ve written a book? No? You can buy it here or here. You already bought it? Buy it again!)

Even when I’m writing, there is more than one me. The stuff I write on Facebook probably seems like it comes from a different person than the stuff on Twitter and that in turn is a little different to the me that writes these blog posts.

We all do it, presenting different facets of our characters to different groups of people. It creates tension and awkwardness when those groups of people overlap because we can’t quite work out who we ought to be. Remember those work parties when partners were invited? Mostly those stilted conversations are just because of that inner conflict of personalities.

The best bit about writing is that I can be that different person in the quiet security of the scribbled page. The embarrassment and inner conflict doesn’t occur until the words are already there and it’s too late to change them. You don’t get the awkward stilted conversation, but instead you get a chance to see another face you don’t normally see and maybe didn’t even know was there. That’s good because, although the other versions of me are all a little different, they’re all still me.

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2 comments

  1. Oh please do read Borges’s short piece entitled Borges and I – it is a brilliant riff on exactly the theme you raise here: the alternative character we morph into when we live in the words on the page. Or I guess if you were ever in the mood (and you might never be), Judith Butler’s work on performative identity is the theoretical version. She argues that we are all constantly playing multiple roles, that there is no essence to identity, and that our culture attempts to regulate those roles, although not always with success. Essentially she was looking at gender identity when she began writing on this topic, but it works on the micro level, too.

    1. It also brought to mind the opening story of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy (that you recently reviewed). His character is a writer, Quinn, who in turn creates a character, Wilson, to write his books, and who then pretends to be someone called Paul Auster. Clearly playing around the same theme.
      I love the Borges piece. Thanks for pointing me at that. I get the impression that Judith Butler’s stuff might be tough reading for a bloke so I might not jump in and read that straight away!

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