Thursday, September 6, 2012

That awkward moment when you're writing a response paper for a Shakespeare class, and you don't mention the play at all...

...but instead you figure out who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation we had about identity. It’s actually something I’ve thought a lot about before now, too. My best friends are twins. We went to high school together, but it wasn’t until we dormed together at JCC that the three of us became inseparable. I remember sitting and just watching them interact with each other, and wondering what it would be like to have a twin. I even asked them what it was like once, and they told me that it was the best thing in the world to have a built in best friend. When I asked them if it was weird to know there was someone in the world just like them, they looked at me and said “Weird, B? It would be weird to not have each other.” I suppose that for children born without a twin, it is weird to imagine having one just like it is weird for my best friends to imagine living without a twin.
I suppose you’ve noticed I just referred to myself as B. No, it was not a typo. B is my nickname, bestowed upon me in a weird, drawn-out story sort of way. I’ve been Allyson, sometimes Ally or Ally-Rae, and for awhile after an unfortunate 4th grade spelling accident, Alien (Allyon), but when it comes to my best friends, affectionately known as Cup and Lee, I am B. I think nicknames are an interesting facet of identity, and for me at least, tend to reflect the persona I’m putting on. I’m Allyson when I am in class and most days at work, Ally-Rae with old friends from Chorale, Ally with my family and on days at work when the other Alisons are working, Allyson Rae when I’m writing, and Allyson Rae(!!) when my mother is really angry with me. The name I am called immediately triggers the part I play, whether it is best friend; student; carefree choir member; motivated T.J. Maxx employee; writer; or guilty, trouble-making daughter. All these personas are “me,” but at the same time, none of them really are. Why? Simply because I can’t let every aspect of every persona fuse together into one. I can’t be my best friend’s best friend when I’m wearing my “student” mask, and I can’t be studious while I’m cleaning up after rude customers at work. I can’t cater to my mother’s hopes and dreams for me while I’m out with my friends, and all the time I spend wearing all those different personas leaves very little time to actually be a writer. Actually…the more I think about it now, the more I think that the time I spend being a writer is the closest I can get to being “the real me.” Because when I am writing, nothing is off limits. I can write about the crazy things my best friends say, and the love/hate/love relationship I have with my family, and the crazy customers I deal with at work. I can let out all the elements of those many personalities through words, and I don’t ever have to hide a part of my personality that I don’t want to, the way that I do with other personas. That isn’t to say that writing allows me to be entirely the real me; there are still things I do not reveal in my writing, and that makes my “writer” persona still a persona. But even so, writing is the closest I have come to synthesizing all the elements of every persona into one.
How have I not realized this until right now? I always defined myself as musician first, writer second, but even as a musician I was still playing a role. I was still putting on a costume and conforming to fit into the identity that made me a choir member, or a band member, or a soloist. On stage, I wasn’t allowed to be the daughter or the sister, the best friend or the sales associate. I had to be “musician.” But in writing? In writing I can choose to explore one, or two or all of those personas and synthesize then into something more. And it’s all through words. That is really something.
I wonder if he'll be mad that I didn't mention The Comedy of Errors at all...probably. I'll figure out how to work that in. Maybe.

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