|Chapter 12 : The (Un-)Making of Me|
|December 5, 1998
You sit staring out through the scratched-up Plexiglas of a plane as the clouds of white cotton-candy and landscapes of green, brown housing tracks and blue expanses of water go tumbling by. Nothing in particular fills your mind, ideas, thoughts, and just jumbles of information - a mathematical calculation that digresses into a train of thought on just why 4 x 4 equals sixteen, how split apart, one minus six is five, and four and six are ten, which is two times five, which is seven, which is five plus 2, supporting the notion that life revolves around the number five.
Such self-distracting thought is comfortable. It allows me to avoid the bigger questions of just what the hell I am doing. What actually comprises who I am, what makes me, me?
And more importantly, is what made me 'me' no longer applicable as I change and evolve; get married, have children. Am I required to change my likes and dislikes? Am I no longer allowed to enjoy what I once enjoyed?
Not that something is actually preventing me from doing so, but have I changed to the point that I'd be trying to fit a square peg in the round hole? Or has life around me moved on to the point that I am the square peg?
I personally believe that, not so deep down, everyone has something that is the essence that makes them them - unique, or whatever other word you want to use for it. I have to believe that. If it is not true, I'm lost. My existence to this point has been pointless if it has nothing to do with who I am now.
I would never be able to defend the position that people don't change over time. I'm not saying that. But there are features of a person that, as everything else changes, become more entrenched. And no matter how much a person may try to deny it, this essence is what truly makes them.
Just from the way we look at the world, interpret others, visualize our place in different environments, we illustrate this essence. We have particular mannerisms (my obsessive behavior, for instance) that, even with concentrated effort, cannot be concealed.
Someone may not consciously change themselves, but in subtle ways society and the world around them begins to force it. Unless you are completely sure of who you are (which I obviously am not), you risk forgetting who you are. The essence that makes you manifests itself and you are confused. You deny your essence. You become embarrassed of what you are. Because society has moved around you, and you have acquiesced and tried to change to suit society.
I'm on a flight to West Palm Beach, Florida, and for the first time in a long time, I have this acute anxiety about it. But I realized what it was almost immediately. It was the idea of impending loneliness. It is the knowledge that I will be alone, by myself, for three nights and four days. My wife is at home, recovering from minor surgery and I'm up here, at 10,000 feet on the way to fun and sun in sunny Florida.
I've always looked forward to business trips. Madison, Wisconsin; Newport Beach, California,; Scottsdale Arizona.. almost anywhere was a great getaway. I would work hard during the day, then play hard at night. Now all of a sudden, I wish at least my wife and son could have come with me on this one. We had such a good time in Newport Beach, and I suppose I began to miss her in Scottsdale sometime in the middle of the trip. But now, I'm missing her right from the start.
It goes to another aspect of defining who I am. What makes me me. No longer can I do it on my own. In a few short years, my wife has become an extension of me. I can understand Wil. I can understand Zach. The pain and confusion of their separation.
Men, in many cases, become defined by the woman they love. They subjugate all their needs and wants for the better good of their partner.. yes, they want to sneak in that football game here and there, but if it comes down to it, he'll pass up those 50 yard line tickets to take her to the ballet.
I think this holds true for most guys in a serious relationship, but I won't project. It's true for me. My mother was recently complaining that she wanted to retire before my father did so she could get her life straight. She wanted to have a routine set up before he came home for good and 'wanted to do everything together.'
You know, I don't like leaving my wife on a weekend day to go surfing, or some other self-involved thing. I will work in the yard or the house, but I'm still around her. Except, she has no problem going out on a weekend to go shopping or to a craft show with her friends, or going out during the week with the girls. And neither do I. But for some reason, I feel guilty if I want to do anything for myself.
At what point did I start to feel guilty about doing things that please me? It's necessary to self-actualize every once in awhile. But I now seem to view it as taking away from time I could give to my wife. But what about me? I give time to my work, my wife and son, my parents and sisters, my friends. So where is it that I have gone? Who the hell am I today and why do I not have any of my own likes and dislikes? Why does it feel like I have to sneak time to listen to Blink 182 or AC/DC's latest, or to get on the Internet, or to go surfing, or to just sit around and watch some cheesy movie on TV on a nice Saturday that would be better spent outside?
People loose themselves in others. They see themselves in others. But isn't there some self-centeredness needed for each person? My life is good now. I'm happy. My family is happy. I like that I am part of a nuclear family unit in suburbia that the rest of the world generalizes and pokes fun at every now and then as the 'house with a white picket fence, 2.2 kids, dog, and cat' Beaver Cleaver quintessential American sell out dream. But what about that guy who likes his hair a little long, likes to rock out to Metallica and Social Distortion, drink beer and belch, surf, scratch his crotch now and again, and blabber endlessly on about the benefits of tasting great and being less filling.
And that is, I fear, what I will end up lamenting the loss of. For isn't it that person who everyone I know and love came to appreciate and love in the first place? What happens when he is gone?