It’s hard for me to be anyone but me. People have told me to tone it done in certain social situations and while my head agrees and knows that there are norms that should be generally followed it’s hard for me to do that. I feel this real compulsion to be me, and to be true to my core. I don’t see anything wrong with that, especially since I am who you get on this blog – an imperfect person who is deeply committed to self-improvement and to doing my part for the greater good. A person who doesn’t make a ton of money, but gives often to charity. A person who freely tells his story so that perhaps someone somewhere can say – “oh, so it’s not just me!” when they are going through a tough time. Sure I may wear a studded belt to work and a way too big beard, but that’s just how I feel.
It’s the idea of me fiercely wanting to be me that got me to wondering why it has become so important to stay true to myself. I know in high school I was barely me. Who is? So I went back a little further and started to think about my dad. My dad was (and still is) all about appearances. Projecting the self-aggrandizing image of the perfect family through to the bitter end was his main focus. He wanted to be praised for his well behaved children, so he was strict to keep us in line. He would talk about how great we were but he almost never told his sons to their faces. To this day he talks of his five sons. There are four of us and a step brother that we have never met. It’s still all about the appearance even long after the death of his first marriage and the less than lustrous relationships my brothers and I have had with him since. Digging a little deeper I discovered that his father was the same way. Funny how cycles can work.
There are obviously problems with maintaining phony appearances at all costs. Some people go broke doing it, buying cars and homes they can’t afford. Taking trips that break the bank. Owning purses that cost more than their rent. And so on. Some people even convincingly do all the things that real friends do, while secretly hating you. But sadly, and more to the point, what also happens is that families lose history. Grandpa doesn’t tell the stories of his youth for fear of it being discovered that he’s normal and has flaws and since he’s the grandfather he feels such things could undermine his paternal position. Grandma doesn’t explain her true Native American blood because so many family members passed away or drank too much on Reservations. Her shame becomes her silence. And the family is left wondering about, instead of knowing for certain, the family history. Always striving to hold on to the appearance of greatness or perfection is an absurd pursuit because it is our imperfections that make us interesting. I happen to like interesting people.
I’m not saying that you need to go out into the world and tell everyone your business. Even as open as I am I still keep some things sacred. Many things are just not for me or anyone else to tell. But if you have to be fake to your closest friends if your marriage is failing or if you find it hard to tell someone that you simply can’t afford to go to Europe which is why you go to Rehoboth Beach instead, you may want to think about why you can’t admit to, and therefore accept, your reality.
When it comes to my son I don’t want him to experience the pain of the pursuit of perfection. I just want him to be the best version of himself he can be. He has many quirks and opinions that I would love to shift a little. But who am I to tell him who he should be? I’m just dad – a dude here to guide him on his path and to give advice on how to get to where he wants to go, but ultimately the success of his journey will be his own (though I will share in some of the glory where appropriate!). My other job is to tell him the truth about his life, his origins and my own short-comings so that he can learn and not repeat my mistakes. If I don’t give him that then I will not have done my job. And if this title if this blog doesn’t indicate how seriously I take this role then I don’t know what does!