Tag Archives: Identity

Our Amorphous Identities

I’ve been thinking about identities lately. The way we see ourselves. The way others see us.

It all used to be so much easier. Back in high school, we were assigned particular descriptors that we, in turn, also stuffed into our sack like snow globes from Jackson Hole and called them our own. But they were no more, or no less unique than any other snow globe from Jackson Hole. We liked these identities because they were as much prescribed as they were chosen by our own known strengths and fears.

For example:

On my very first day of middle school I was the “kid from Kalamazoo that lived in a motel.” That’s all anyone knew about me. I also happened to be the tallest kid in class. Which made me stand out, if just a bit.

On my very first day of high school I was “the baseball kid from Detroit.” That’s all anyone knew about me. I played baseball and I hailed from Detroit. How they knew this about me without ever having spoke to me I’ll never know.

These initial impressions may or may not endure. Until the day I left middle school and moved to Pittsburgh, most people remembered that I’d lived in a motel. My house was closing, whatever. But the thing stuck. In addition to being the dorky jock that got along with most everyone.

High school was more cruel. People became more cruel. And I became more cruel to myself as a result. I hung out with the “stoners,” but I wasn’t a stoner. I wasn’t a jock because although I was good at sports, my best sport wasn’t until the spring. Plus the jocks were punks and slackers and I didn’t want to hang out with them. The preps and cool kids didn’t accept new applications. Therefore I settled into a wonderful little circle of friends connecting the geeks and the stoners. Life is just one big Venn Diagram. Labels are wonderful, aren’t they? The way we can corral everyone in our lives into neat packages.

Point is, I went from being a dorky, amiable jock to being a guy that didn’t fit. As a result I was an angry, out of sorts, depressed teenager.

So I switched schools. I went back to a private school with fewer kids and genres of people became microgenres. I was the baseball and movie guy. I wrote movie reviews for the paper and a friend and I started an early movies reviews website on that spanking new internet. We even had a feature in a Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Movie guys. I watched a lot of movies. And I know a crapton too. Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner. We were featured on MTV’s Adam Curry’s entertainment page. True story. People used to consider my knowledge about movies extensive. Some might have called me an expert (though, it’s all relative to other 16-19 year olds).

The point of the rumble is this. Who are we now? Out in the real world? Do we even get to choose anymore? We could be twenty different things to twenty different people.

To one group I’m the dad that takes his daughter to school. And some of those people that know more about me might probably consider me the barely employed dad that takes his daughter to school because the wife has the big job. Oy. Others consider me a graphic designer because I do pro-bono stuff for a local non-profit. I’m sure some people consider me a writer. Others consider me a writer about music because of this site and my Twitter feed. If I’m lucky, my friends just see me as Jay.

But how do I see myself anymore? Father? Writer? Slacker? Coffee addict? Procrastinator? Compulsive smartphone checker? How far down the rabbit hole do we go before we just don’t like what we see anymore? I’d like to be “the prolific writer with two kids and a wife.” I think that might be nice. And I do write a lot. But I’m everywhere and nowhere at once. I’m churning out music reviews, Bond essays, fiction and creative non-fiction here and there. I’m copyediting and copywriting.

At heart, I know who I am, but do I have the courage to be that person in the real world? Or will it forever be a character that I’m more comfortable writing about, expressing on the page than I am living it. But then again, I suppose that’s a plight many writers must face. The notion that writing about regrets is easier than initiating real change. That writing more and more without ever really writing towards a goal is just another way to avoid the hard stuff. The stuff that, in your mind, really matters. If you’re even lucky to know what that is.

Then again, maybe I’ll just go back to being a movie guy. It was all just so much easier then. Let’s all do it for a week. Let’s go back to being that “guy” or “girl” we were in high school. As an experiment. I’m going to do nothing but watch movies and hit in the batting cage. This time we’ll do it without the teenage neurosis.

Will we find relief, knowing that we fit again?

 

 

Hell hath lukewarmed

I’m not prepared to say that Hell has frozen over, but there’s definitely been some cooling, some arctic caps have melted and it’s no longer the fire and brimstone it once was. It’s more equatorial.

By the way, shout out to the good people of Hell, Michigan, who probably have to put up with a lot of “Hell has frozen over” jokes every winter. That’s got to wear on a person.

Hell, Michigan

But to the point of the rumble. Those few stalkers that keep up with my tweets know that I purchased a Macbook Pro recently to replace my four-year-old Dell laptop. Some backstory. Ten years ago, I was a huge Dell supporter. I wouldn’t have dreamed of ordering a computer anywhere else. I rolled my eyes at Mac people who told me that I needed to spend twice as much on a computer with roughly the same innards. For what I needed, writing, editing, web browsing, I didn’t need the half-step forward. I paid $600 for my laptops. And that was how it was going to be.

Fast forward ten years. My wife has a bricked Dell laptop with a screen hardware problem that I can’t bring myself to fix. My former Dell has required three wipes in four years and it shut down permanently when I bumped the front left wrist pad with my elbow (this happened before, but after a couple of weeks, it miraculously started again). I’ve had two faulty HPs (one desktop, one laptop) and another Dell desktop at work, functions more consistently, as a boat anchor. The fucking facts of the matter are thus. I am perfectly capable of repairing and fixing software flaws. But it takes time. And every single one of these machines failed before the natural life span (permanently or temporarily) because of hardware. It’s aggravating. I used words to describe these machines that I never knew existed. The ones I had in my lexicon weren’t harsh enough.

With two kids, I hardly have any time to myself. The last thing I want to do is spend it returning my computer situation to the status quo. A computer’s only job is to work when I need it to work. Am I asking too much here?

So after months of deliberation, literally months — two weeks without a laptop at all — I bought a Macbook. Something I swore I’d never do for a number of reasons. The foremost of which was my assertion that you can get a better computer for less money. I still believe this. HOWEVER, I must add a caveat. You can get a better computer (speaking in terms of power under the hood) for less money, but the PC you’d be getting has probably pretended to be a Macbook anyway. Everyone wants to make the Mac and sell a brand like Apple. They are, after all the master of marketing. I didn’t buy all of these PCs because I secretly wanted a Mac. I wanted PCs.

Or did I?

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5skuYPa_fY[/tube]

An open letter to PC manufacturers: Stop making multi-touch pads that don’t work. Stop off-centering the touchpad so that you can fit more crap on the keyboard. If I’m typing and my palm is resting on your touchpad and making it bounce all over the screen that’s a design flaw. Make the keys responsive but not stiff or, conversely, without any response whatsoever. Bottom line: just make your computer pleasant to use: a very nice keyboard and touchpad is an excellent start. And a start that would have allowed me to remain a PC user.

So here I am, with my overpriced laptop (almost three times more than I’d ever paid for a laptop)… writing a bl-g post at a coffee shop. I’m such a fucking caricature it makes me sick. But just a little… and a little less each day. I set up my Macbook to run Windows through BootCamp for some necessary Windows programs. I thought I’d still live in Windows land. I’d planned to put a Windows ’95 sticker on the back of this thing as a last act of defiance. But I started to look at myself more closely. I have two iPods, an iPad and a Macbook. It would be pretty hard to stage a resistance against the institution when you’re bathing in their propaganda. It’s just hypocritical.

So you know what?

Fuck it.

I’m a goddamn Apple guy now, indoctrinated into the empire. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid with cookies, I’ve got my earmuffs on and I right click with two m’f’ing fingers.