Facebook (and it’s long-forgotten predecessor, Classmates.com) are great for finding out what happened to the people you knew in high school. Over the years, there’s been some great surprises, some scary losses, and some puzzling disappearances. Mostly though, people are usually not completely unlike you thought they might turn out to be.
Wait, let me amend that a bit. It’s not that people are like you always thought they were going to be. More like you meet people in your life and think “Huh, I wonder if this is what so-and-so turned out to be like.” Over the years you meet different sorts of folks and they in turn remind you of all sorts of people you knew when you were in your teens.
But sometimes, it’s different. So, let’s say you were friends with a kid when you were ten, up until the end of school, and then you bump into them on social networks again in the early 2000s, you have some catching up to do, but you mostly know who that person is.
Here’s where the question changes: When you knew each other in that oddly diaphanous way that kids do when they’re only ten or so, but then lose touch entirely, and then stumble across them again THIRTY years later.
Where do you even start? The question isn’t “what have you been up to for the last X years?” but more “Who are you? Who have you been?”
It’s that difference between what you DO and who you ARE. The former can change during the course of your career, but the latter can’t even really be answered easily in an email thread, can it?
It’s tempting to answer that question using something like the business-class social networks have: references. I think Friendster had a “Write something about your friend” feature or maybe it was something about “Tell us how you know each other.” I remember those write-ups and miss them. My fave was from Sam, and he’d included something along the lines of “…and a +10 to detect bullshit” along with some other stuff that are either true, or I sure wish they were.
That’s it: It’s not that I don’t know who I am, it’s that I want to be able to say that I am the person my friends would say I was. Their idealization of me. The avatar of self, in a illuminated version on first page of the story of my life.
Or maybe I just want to be blurbed.
Was told recently that when I was ten I’d said that I thought George Lucas was going to do another trilogy of Star Wars that took place BEFORE Star Wars. I suspect I was noticing that SW was Chapter IV: A New Hope, so I assumed there were three chapters before that. Didn’t expect JarJar though. NOBODY EXPECTED JARJAR.
But yeah, who am I to myself vs. who I am to other people is interesting, to me at least. I can’t say that I honestly know a full and complete answer to either question that I could hand to someone else, other than to say “I’m the sort of person who’d wonder what I could possibly respond with when I ask myself questions about who I am.”
Meta, I know.
I love a good puzzle – not necessarily the solving of it, but the cracking of the shell. That first moment when you realize it’s not entirely impossible to to solve, and even brief glimpses of how it could be solved, or what it should look like once complete. Sometimes it all just looks like hard work, and I wanna just shortcut the whole thing because I should be able to do that. Maybe that’s pride talking. Maybe it’s pressure.
Maybe it’s just me, being me, about me?