Who Am I? Depends on Who You Are. And Chemistry

By Jason Menard,

In today’s social-media dominated world, the opportunity to share ourselves is ever present. But volume of sharing does not necessarily equal substance.

For example, I’ve had a lot of changes over the past couple of years. Some of you may know about them; others don’t. You see, I write a lot, but I don’t share a lot.

The trivial, the odd, the fun? Sure. No problem. But the personal? The stuff below the surface? I don’t like opening myself up like that and it’s rare that I do. I used to use the excuse that I figured people wouldn’t care, but that’s only part of the truth.

The truth is is that it’s not you. It’s just me.

We’re not black and white; we’re different things at different times to different people. And, in my case, how I express myself and how I share myself varies — sometimes inexplicably.

My friend Holly wrote an incredible and incredibly self-reflective piece about being reticent. And while I see a lot of myself in what she says, there are differences. As a writer, I always found motivation in The Rolling Stones’ lyric, “if I could stick my pen in my heart and spill it all over the stage, would it satisfy ya? Would it slide on by ya?”

Motivation, but not inspiration.

I’ve always had a romantic notion about pouring my soul onto a page. And it is true that there is a piece of me in everything I write. I use my past and my experiences as platforms upon which to build my present. But I’ve never been inspired to share all with everyone.

Some with many; a lot with a few. But all? Not yet and maybe not ever. Though I’m far less definite about the latter than I was before.

Why is it that you can meet someone far out of your ‘normal’ circle and instantly feel comfortable sharing? Why is it that some people can belly up to the bar and unburden their deepest secrets to a complete stranger, while remaining a virtual stranger to someone for three-quarters of their life?

I wish I knew — but I’m content not knowing.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that questioning why something fits is a waste of time. In fact, we’re so often fearful of those serendipitous moments that we tend to mistrust them. We look for reasons to discredit them; we try to find explanations and fault, instead of appreciating those relationships for what they are.

We’re far more comfortable trying to find a way to hew off the rough edges of those relationships that don’t fit. That with enough time, pressure, and effort those square edges can be eroded enough to make them fit into a round hole.

Others will say it’s a fear of being hurt that motivates us to remain sheltered from each other. I can only speak for myself and that’s just not the case. Like many of us, I’ve had moments of pain that are unimaginable. Once you survive those moments, the fear goes away. After all, once you’ve been through the worst, anything less than that threshold is relatively easy to deal with.

It’s just what we are. And what we are is different to all people. In talking with a friend and colleague today about this he asked if it could be considered “acting” or showing a “false” version of oneself to one group or another.

Far from it. In my opinion, it’s actually quite honest. We don’t exist in two dimensions — we don’t have the luxury of seeing everything all at once. There are always layers and sides that are out of our view. Your view and understanding are limited to the perspective that you are provided. So why should that be different in the foundation of our interpersonal interactions?

Each relationship we develop is unique: some are with friends you’ve had since youth — those who have grown up and been through the growing years and the stupidity; others are with friends you meet later in life — when you have a greater understanding of who you are, what you believe, and what you want. The hows, wheres, whens, and whys of those relationships all have an impact on how they play out and how you respond to them.

There’s no alchemy or magic involved. There’s no sure-fire chemistry that can guarantee a perfect solution, just as there’s no sure-fire way to prevent a combustible result. And that’s why those relationships where you find that positive chemistry are so elusive — and so cherished.

So, to quote Mick again, “If I could dig down deep in my heart, feelings would flood on the page. Would it satisfy ya? Would it slide on by ya? Would you think the boy’s insane?”

Maybe. But after many years of experience, to me the only insane thing is to question what works and what feels right to the exclusion of appreciating those rare serendipitous moments when they happen.

There are many elements that make up our life’s experiences. That’s just simple chemistry.

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