There's this coffee shop in Oregon I used to go to almost every night. The coffee is pretty terrible, but their scones were always good and the best part was that it was a 24-hr joint. There's not a lot going on in that part of town, so around 11 pm on summer nights, it was always packed and bustling.
But the best part of the night is around 3 AM when the crowd is mostly gone. Sometimes there are a couple people lingering. Two guys battling wills over a chessboard. A slumped, sleep-allured barista. But we're all in our own little circles; the edges of our personal hemispheres aren't touching, aren't making venn diagrams that overlap.
I like everything about that. Even the fog/frost-rime waiting on the car windows when I finally leave the cafe.
There's something solemnly sweet about places that are suddenly bereft of the presence that usually requires their existence. This is what I liked about recording sessions or rehearsals at school that took place at seemingly unnatural, haunted hours. I was able to see something that people wouldn't normally see. It's like being taken into confidence by these places that put on a facade during the day.
This is how I feel about people too. I guess I like it better when their personal, solemnly sweet layer is something only revealed when you're taken into confidence. Something other people don't normally see. But maybe even in the 3 AM of people, we can never truly know someone.
They say that you always have the people that know you best. But it could be that these are simply the people that bring out the best version of you. The person you aspire to be. I guess that's the ideal relationship. And the ideal self. We shouldn't be striving for perfection, but for that best version that's within us. But I wonder if it's possible to have that constant person that always makes you reach for that best version. The true version.
Although the Delphic oracles of Ancient Greece may have invoked "Know Thyself", sometimes it's hard to sift through the layers of how we see ourselves and how others see us. As strange as it sounds, there are several different versions of ourselves running around. Who I am as a daughter, who I am as a sister, who I am as a friend or an enemy...as a teacher or as a student...in my worst day or my best day...all of these selves have created representations in other people's minds. Some of these representations may be more true than others. It depends.
Rousseau called these different selves "spheres of influence." And perhaps all of these shades of me create me. Within me they are those circles like in the cafe at night. Only some of these circles overlap because certain qualities transcend and traverse through several versions of me. And yet, some of these circles retract from each other...like magnets rejecting poles of the same charge. I'm a set of contradictions. Some beautiful points of light. Some layered deceptions. Some parts perhaps no one will ever know. Some parts that betray me in ways I'm not even aware of.
Sometimes these shadows of myself within me become too much to bear. What a person thinks of me can be encouraging, uplifting...or it can balloon out, threatening to consume me. It's like when I'm walking down the street with the sun behind my shoulder and I see my shadow walking ahead of me. It's always jarring to me...because my shadow should be following me, not directing me. Or when I look at myself in the mirror and suddenly, briefly, have no idea or control over what the reflection there will do. My reflection is supposed to belong to me though, not the other way around.
And then I find that it doesn't matter how much I think I know myself. Because there's a version of me in another person's mind and if I don't cater to it, then I'm disappointing in some capacity.
This can be crippling. Within most of us, there is a sense of entitlement...whether we admit to it or not. We think we're special. That there's a Hogwarts letter waiting for us. Or that within us, there's some spark of genius. Sometimes we're told this. Sometimes it's formulated. We're expected to do things. Because we're smart. We're talented. We went to school. Spent money on lessons. On getting a college degree. Brought up a certain way or expected to overcome certain obstacles. But it's not enough. The expectation that comes with these labels -- the "American Dream" "Opportunity" "College Degree" "Honors"...they're not merely accomplishments, but a prelude to something more.
But this sense of entitlement, this expectation, this shadow within ourselves, this particular sphere of influence is false.
Because the truth, knowing ourselves, or what we accomplish out of life isn't perception or expectation or a sliver shade version in someone's mind. Genius or talent may be a responsibility as heavy as Peter Parker's guilt, but it's something we have to seize. If we're truly meant for more, the destiny of it isn't something that just happens. Who we want to be shouldn't be something that burns within, eating away. It should be the truth of who we are. And the truth of who we are is revealed by what we do. (Batman Begins says it best).
This is something I try to remind myself of from time to time.