Shapeshifting from one body to the next; that’s how it often felt as I searched for an identity in the early days. In an esoteric sense, only the misunderstood can relate. Those with an undying need to be represented in some way, but were horribly mistreated by a majority that no longer even exists. Those were the 1980s. Nancy Reagan and her anti-drug era campaign of terrifying fried egg commercials. Things can drastically change in a few short decades.
I’m 42, in college, shapeshifted into a much older and liberated self. No longer a need to feel represented by shit. I’ve become a sort of art school misfit now, the thing for years I had always dreamed of being. I did take a few detours along the way, but it would have been necessary in order to free the baggage of an unhappy soul to get to this juncture. You don’t just arrive here; nothing is a fucking mistake. Accidents can and will happen; most often with positive results, but let it be known that life happens to be where you end up for good reasons. All the right reasons.
I always had to change my ideas early on, even after High School was over, in order to be accepted. Conformity is such a hard pill to swallow. Harder than any drug I ever tried. By drug i mean alcohol, my biggest demon ever. I spent plenty of time in rehabilitation facilities over the course of young adulthood trying to overcome the demons. The Military came calling shortly after High School and my identity shifted from having to adapt to whatever the “norm” of surviving the playground rules were into conforming into the Military life of how they wanted me to tie a shoelace, fold a bed properly or even holding a fork in order to shove some pretty nasty Military chow down my throat. It was that identity, though, which allowed me to ponder what I would do later on – those moments spent alone when nobody was watching me and I would actually morph into the person I really was. I could transform myself seamlessly from one person into another, like I feel many people often do in roles of political office or even celebrity. They are one identity to the “outside” world and then a total different being when in a darkenend corner of their room.
According to a passage in Real College: The Essential Guide to Student Life:
“Feeling comfortable with your identity doesn’t require you to make a choice among different aspects of yourself. If you feel pulled in different directions, the tension itself may be a part of who you are. The real you is the one with the questions, the one whose identity feels settled one day and unsettled the next.”
Sometimes the need to be a rebel had its place in an institution where rebels and misfits were not always welcomed with open arms. The inner tension within myself to break free would manifest through all night drinking binges and partying that used to last until daylight came for work the next morning. Looking back, i’m not sure how many of us functioning alcoholics made it standing in a uniform. This was a different time where you could get away with being drunk, as long as you showed up. I think it was was largely a way to cope without having to cope at all. For me, the true lesson looking back on then versus now is that nothing was truly lost but a few brain cells. Will we ever gain access to and total control of the inner misfit that wants to enjoy everything all of the time? The only realistic answer to that question would be to explore the complexity of your own human nature as you age – rather ungracefully as has been in my case. Living each day questioning every circumstance with an unsettled heart.
Stone, Douglas, and Elizabeth Tippett. Real College: The Essential
Guide to Student Life. New York: Penguin, 2004. Print.