Interesting Boundless article:
As my friend and I talked and reminisced our conversation fell to our single plight (deep down we all want things like marriage and family). “It used to be really simple,” my friend said with a laugh. By “it” he meant establishing a romantic relationship. (He was engaged his senior year of college, but it fell through.)
“Now I’ve lost confidence in my ability to choose,” he said. “I know how I am. I know all these things about myself, and I know what won’t work for me. I almost know too much about myself.”
I knew exactly what he meant. In the eight years since college, I’ve accumulated more than a house full of photographs, furniture and dishes that aren’t plastic — I’ve developed a fairly complex identity. And honestly, finding someone who’s a fit seems like a much more difficult task than it used to.
I was just thinking about this very thing the other day. In the case of the article’s writer, she’s talking about the baggage of achievements and things that we have accumulated throughout our 20s, and what effect that has on meeting a potential partner. I was thinking of those, yes, but also of emotional baggage, of course. I thought about what would happen if someone I was interested in, who already knew about all my achievement baggage, discovered my blog, opened up this public Pandora’s box and read about what’s in my emotional baggage.
I guess in my 20s I would have been keen to hide all that stuff to some extent. I wouldn’t want to turn someone off getting to know me better, and so would present a particular version of myself, the ‘display’ model. We all do that, I guess (I always loved the term ‘residual self image‘ that was used to such good effect in The Matrix). You want people (and I don’t just mean potential partners) to be attracted to the best parts of you, you want to look your best, sound your best, be your best, and you try to put out the markers that will make this new person choose you as a potential friend. If you actually get into a conversation, it’s full of calculations and control, whether conscious or not. You laugh winsomely so they will know you enjoy a good joke. You pepper the conversation with witty asides so that they know you have a good sense of humour. You try to connect on a meaningful level so that they know you’re not just about the superficial. All the while, there is a simmering undercurrent of ‘if only they knew what I was really like…’ (well, there is for me).
But now that I’m older, even though I’d still be mildly nervous about what someone new would think of me upon reading my backstory, the fact is I know that close friends are the ones who know all that stuff and want to know me better in spite (or because?) of it. I’ve had plenty of friends over the years who only knew the ‘display’ version of me, and most of them have fallen away. I look at photos of my 21st, recalling how I agonised over who to invite and how each person there I considered to be vitally important to me, and honestly I’m only in touch with a few of them now. Some of them I can barely remember their names. The friends who have stuck are the ones who know all about the dark and the light parts of me and love me anyway, whether I’ve known them ten years or ten months.
I know there are lots of you out there reading and I have no idea who you are, but obviously there’s something there that’s kept you coming back. I am grateful that I’m not hollering into a void. Hope you stick around.