Archive for June 22nd, 2011
This photo was taken in Toronto, Ontario, Canada earlier this month. This young woman caught my eye for a brief moment, just long enough for the camera to grab this one image. I can see a carefully crafted look in her hair style and her wardrobe, a statement of her uniqueness, her individuality in a world of apparent conformity. But upon a closer look, especially at her eyes, the lie is evident. She is lost, buying into a counter-culture statement as she rejects one collective for another. It is all about masks.
Masks conceal, somewhat, the individual from the group. That concealment is often about fear, about subterfuge, about hiding one’s self from the collective in an attempt to protect one’s self. We don’t want to expose our personal weaknesses.
However, somewhere along the way, we buy into the disguises, the masks and start to believe that we are the masks that we wear. We deny the inner so vehemently that we become convinced that it doesn’t exist, that what you see is what you get. And so the disguises become more elaborate, more “unique.”
A person invests tremendous amounts of energy into maintaining the fiction of the disguise. My disguise for so many years was that of “Teacher.” Being a teacher became more than an occupation, a way to feed my growing family; it became a way to see myself in the community. I knew that beneath the teacher layer was something messy and dark that would isolate me from community if it ever emerged. The work of building a concrete bunker around my inner self became a dedicated task. Eventually, the work continued unconsciously and I lost sight of my “self” and embraced the identity I had crafted, that of “teacher.”
The crafting of a persona of a teacher, or of almost any role, is necessary in community for a variety of reasons, almost all of them good reasons. The persona is just an interactive side of the self which we use to enable connection with others. The persona is not supposed to be about denying our inner self. One needs to remember that beneath the persona, a fuller person exists. It took a midlife crisis for me to remember the person beneath the persona.
I am still a teacher even though I have officially retired, a caretaker and nurturer. I still use this persona as a way to meet others in this world. But now I know that this is just one part of who I am. There is little conflict between the various personae that I use in my connections with others as I know I am none of the assorted cast of characters that I call upon in various situations, groups and cultures. I have finally learned that the real individual lies beneath the surface and that the surface is just that, a surface.