Monday, August 21, 2006


Identity is a tricky thing. Who am I really? I write a semi-anonymous blog with my real name in the URL. I receive e-mail at 7 different e-mail addresses, each of which is similar in name to one but no more than one of the other addresses. I’ve lived in 4 different states (5 if you count the Massachusetts experiment) and 3 different countries (Sweden doesn’t count really but I was born there and that’s important.) But I don’t instinctively connect with any of these places as “home.” Since moving away from “home” in college, I’ve had 16 different homes (18 if you count the Massachusetts experiment and the Anaheim month; 14 if you don’t count those places and you further ignore that I twice moved within the same apartment complex/building). That’s somewhere between 14 and 18 homes in 19 years. Not a good ratio. But maybe that’s my identity – the every(place)man who can adapt to his environment (as long as the environment is adequately contained) and is expert at ordering new cable service and locating the nearest Trader Joe’s.

Then there are the stories. I read and reread them (I think they’re good) and I search for myself in them and sometimes I find a sliver of me and sometimes I just see a whoosh of darkness or light that passed through my life but was most definitely not me. I was never a mallwalker. I was never a caketopper. I have always been a writer. Sometimes what I write are numbers. In my first 21 years I lived in relative stability – 9 homes, including 1 for 9 years. But if you asked me to describe that house – my childhood home on Southview Lane in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, I would tell you that it was rust-colored, that it had two stories and a basement, that I played basketball in the driveway (and I was good – I had an awkward but accurate outside shot that could rival Jamaal Wilkes’), that the backyard was so big there were likely parts of it I never touched. But I don’t remember the interior. I can’t see the size or shape of the rooms. I know my bedroom was the last one on the left but I’ve got to grasp and guess at other details.

I know I feel like the observer, the outsider, the journalist with his fresh pens and notebook. I think I made the right decision to forsake my original college major – journalism – for a simpler one – psychology. I might tell you I did it because psychology would tell me more about me (journalism told me about the outside world and I already knew enough about that.) But oddly I chose not to apply my psychological education inward. I just read the books and took the tests. Then I wrote 2000 poems and 200 stories and (200 blog posts once this one goes up and yes that last number is a complete coincidence. I just looked it up. I would’ve guessed 180.) And in those writings you might find me. Or you might not. I can tell a good story. I can relate a memorable incident. I can call out a co-worker with Cheeto-stained fingers. I can remember playing basketball in the driveway when my Mom called me inside to tell me John Belushi died and trying to decide whether this was tragic news or just inevitable. I can remember sleeping on the floor of my North Hollywood apartment in 1995 because my doctor recommended it to combat my back problems and then the phone rang and a stranger told me my father was dead. I still sleep on the floor sometimes because I like it.

But are memories identity? Are lists of adjectives and other descriptors identity? Can the language and plot of my stories be translated into an actual life lived, into a real person? Can I tell my life story in lists? I don’t know but I sure enjoy doing it.


Dr. Armchair said...

I think your identity is whatever you enjoy....and whatever it is you're hiding. I think you're doing fine. No worries.

Jason B. said...

Excellent posts. This is what we pay our money for - rumimation on the nature and specifics of the self from the Salinger of the blogosphere. Keep it up.