I was standing in line this morning at Starbucks for my antidote for grumpiness (aka Grande Americano) and there was a guy in front of me with his girlfriend. They were in their own world, quietly conversing with each other, smiling and sweet. When it came time for them to order, he turned to the barista and ordered a tall dark and a tall tea misto. The funny thing was that his voice changed from soft and caring to deep and commanding, confident and professional. His stance changed and even his facial expression hardened as he turned his interaction from his girlfriend to a stranger. Same guy, two hats.
People have many faces, and I don’t say this in neither a negative or positive connotation. One could potentially say that “She’s evil to her brother, but amazing to her husband.” Or “He treats his girlfriend like she’s his bitch but he such a momma’s boy.” Fact is, that all people are many things. You’re a brother, a son, a boss. You’re a granddaughter, a friend, a student. In every situation people act differently to different people. While your core is still the same, your intentions and actions and true heart will never change, but the way you act will. Whether all of your faces are kind, happy and genuine, or evil and spiteful, or a mixture of both, everybody presents different faces to each person. Think about the minor or major differences in the way you interact with your family members and to your best friend. With your significant other or with a police officer who just pulled you over for pulling a U turn on Lougheed Highway. The secrets you tell them, the politeness or lack of, the tone of voice you use. The way you treat each person is both dependent on their relationship to you and the current present situation. Does this mean that there really is no such thing as “just being yourself” because there is no ‘yourself’ as a singular situational context?
Recently I was going through my old photo albums with a friend. I saw the changes that I’d gone through in my short lifetime so far. I’d experienced everything from racism and being constantly picked on as a elementary schooler, to being MVD* on my high school football team. I was all stereotypes, from nerd, to jock, to thug, to student and now a professional. Unpopular to popular and back again. I’d lived each of those lives and felt the difference in the way people treat you in all of those lives. Within each picture in my album, there was a story, a memory whether good or bad. I’d felt the pain of being ridiculed, I’d felt the pride of winning at sports, I’d felt the belonging when being with friends. Looking at the pictures only presented a snapshot of the physical moment and some of those snapshots were pretty funny looking back at how I used to be. (My friends cheeks and stomach ended up hurting because she was laughing so hard at some of the old pictures.) But because I was all stereotypes, I really was none of them. If you look through your old photo albums or jpeg files, I’m sure you’ll find the same. (Unless you were the same person all throughout, then I apologize my friend, you’ve lived a sheltered and unfortunately uneventful life.)
If we were to use an anology, I would use travel as one, because the changes in lifestyle and that of destinations are similar in experiences. Say a person grew up in, say, Edmonton. They were born and raised there and had never traveled anywhere further than 2 hours away. They’d shopped for groceries at the Safeway around the block for 20 years, and went to Stan’s Video Store for the latest rentals, until Blockbuster built a store right next door, causing Stan to go bankrupt and eventually losing his home to foreclosure. Then there was a person who was also born in Edmonton, but had snorkeled the Great Barrier Reefs of Sydney. They’d built houses in Africa, walked through the slums and shanty towns of Brazil. They’d made friends with this girl who was from Germany and this guy from Amsterdam and they shared amazing stories while traveling together. They’d camel-backed across the Saharan desert, silhouetted by the setting sun and stood at the base of the Victoria Falls in Zambia and felt the ancient mist wet them through to the soul.** Who would be a more interesting person? Who would you rather have dinner and share a drink with? To hear their stories and to vicariously live through them by the excitement in their eyes as they retell their tales. While it doesn’t take a $2000 plane ticket and plenty of vacation time to be interesting, it does take stories. It also takes experience to make interesting stories, whether your stories are about world travel or about the many lifestyle changes that you’ve gone through in your life.
I think the many faces that you have are dependent on your experiences that you’ve gone through as those many roles. The more changes you’ve gone through, the better you are in many different situations and the more socially adept you are. Being a chameleon when you were younger makes you a deeper adult and a stronger and more independent person as you’ve already gone through the soul-searching and trying to ‘figure out who you are’ stage and now, who you are, is the pick of your choice, the best of the experiences. You may have gone through the nerd stage onto experience the popular stage. Then onto the rebellion stage and perhaps even lived in the Emo world for a year. Who you are at the end is who you’ve chosen to be because you realize that while you’ve gone through many different experiences, this is the one that suits you the best and the lifestyle is one that you are happy to live in. If you’ve only ever experienced one type of lifestyle, how are you to know that this is the best? In life there are many choices, from flavors of ice cream (which I continue to refer back to because I’m a huge ice cream advocate) to the different colors of shirts that you could buy. You are constantly bombarded with choice and generally, once somebody has been presented with multitudes of choice and experienced them all, they return to the one that best pressed their happy button. The most stable person is one who’s gone through instability, who’s experienced the extremities of life and have now found a niche for themselves out of their wide gamut of lifestyles. These are the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
This is not to say that once you’ve found your stability you won’t change anymore or acquire new ‘faces’. While I’ve experienced a lot in my first 3 decades of life, there are many more hats that I will be wearing in the future. What kind of boss will I be? Will I be a caring father or a strict one, or both? Will I be a good husband or a great one? Those are all experiences that still face me and you have many experiences that still face you. Don’t be scared of change and definitely don’t be scared to acquire new experiences. The more you have, the deeper of a person you will be and the more interesting of a life you will live. After all, you only have one, so make it as amazing as you can.
*Most Valuable Defenceman
** My sister has done all of these things and she is one of the most interesting people I know