There is only one me
Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be. – Alan Watts
It started as a new year’s resolution – my only new year’s resolution – to keep a diary. I threw in the hashtag #ThereIsOnlyOneMe on a whim. It sounds pretty obvious, but so does a lot of advice we give ourselves and soon forget.
Originally, I was only thinking of logistics. There is only one physical me. No-one can be in two places at once. In work, I’m reasonably good at keeping a diary, but teaching does this for you in many ways, as you have fixed times for lessons (I just have to make sure I keep to what’s in the diary!)
The mistake I keep making, however, and the new year’s resolution I’ve often broken, is allowing things to clash outside of work. By keeping a ‘work diary’, in an isolated bubble which only applies to the time I’m in work, I don’t take into account the knock-on effect of working late, or the times where I need to see if I can finish early. I cannot be ‘work me’, ‘musician me’, ‘family me’, etc. in isolation, and keeping them each in their own little time bubbles means that – on rare occasions – they all add up to more than 100%. Gigs clash with work, gigs clash with pre-arranged family time, gigs clash with other gigs…
I’d already been given the solution in 2008 – a small paper diary – but in true Star Trek style, it was so successful a solution that I duly never used it again. In the past, and since, I’ve tried a slew of digital organisers, PDAs, my phone…all of them rely on the user (i.e. me) programming them correctly, and remembering to charge them…
I have tried other paper diaries, but they were too big…so I almost always left them on my desk at work…and so the problem of clashes outside of work continued.
Cue 2016, and a 59p diary, staring at me from the shelves of Poundstretcher. Four inches by three. Pocket-sized. Never runs out of battery, no delay in loading (once the right date has been found), and even if I forget a pen, I’m highly likely to find another before I would have managed to open the calendar app on my phone. This is the future, I thought. And it has worked, to an extent.
I’m realising, though, that the mentality shift of #ThereIsOnlyOneMe is so much bigger than this idea of keeping a diary. When you’re on the stage – whether it’s the stage of a lecture theatre, or any other type of stage, it can be helpful to have a persona. Crucially though, I’m not being false, just ‘Jamie+’: confidence ramped up to 220%, for a fixed and short length of time. Extroverted. Funny (sometimes). I step off the stage, and I’m back to being plain Jame again.
However, somewhere along the way, I got confused: my metaphorical stage and everyday life became flipped. I started simulating a ‘new me’, and he tried to simulate the ‘old me’ (badly), for backwards-compatibility with the real world. This is the thought process behind one of my so-called ponems:
In the past I may have been
Not me; a virtual machine.
Reacting as I thought I should,
Based on how another would.
Simulations of a soul,
Stopping me from being whole.
It’s gone on for far too long.
Now I sing a different song,
Rememb’ring who I am, and more:
Friends and family are core.
The past few months and years have been filled with challenges, some of my own making, some beyond my control. I thought I needed to learn who I was, but what I really needed to learn was who I was not. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say re-learn, since almost everything I’ve learned I already knew, annoyingly. In experimental physics, we sometimes need to push against the theories, change theories to match new data, perform experiments in ever more extreme situations to see if the theories hold. But my own mind is not, and should not be a physics experiment. The world is not a simulation. It is filled with real people, with real emotions, real feelings, real lives. And in the past, there’s one person I’d been forgetting to count amongst these real people: me.
I know me better than anyone else. I’ve been me for over thirty years. My family come a very close second – they cannot be me, but they know almost all of me better than anyone else. Anonymous memes, generic magazine articles, even well-meaning advice from friends must be taken along with the context in which it is given. Logic can plot a straight-line course, but the wind and the waves of your psyche will most likely have other ideas. You can’t take the advice of an icebreaker captain and apply it to your canoe (I do love my weird analogies…)
My new year’s resolution to keep a small diary up-to-date has unwittingly become a life-encompassing mantra: whether it’s my schedule, my relationships, my music, my teaching presence, my place in the blogosphere, or anything else…for 2016, and beyond, #ThereIsOnlyOneMe.