In the past 5-10 years, I’ve noticed pressure mounting in business magazines and online courses for people to produce for themselves “personal brands”. We’re pressured to decide what we are and then build a reputation as that minimally dimensional thing. It’s always a smart business move to simplify the message to make it easier for people to decide to buy in. Confusion doesn’t produce sales.
This makes sense for choosing a plumber or a dentist. No one wants to hire a dentist-accountant-boxer-chef. You likely don’t care what other skills your dentist has as long as the teeth skills are the main focus.
But when getting to know people as friends or colleagues, when building communities, when building anything complicated and fluid, I worry that we’re oversimplifying our messages so that we can hurry our connections, hastily picking amongst each other who we want on our teams.
What if we slow our roll? What if we allow ourselves to be unknowable for a while, and to not fully understand other people, to allow them to keep revealing new layers, whole universes to us, over time? What if we sit with the possibility that we don’t even know our own selves and we follow our curiosities until we become new people?
I am a writer— of poetry, of creative non-fiction, of sales material, of non-fiction books. But I’m also a designer of graphics, of websites, of homes and spaces, and four children I’ve made and mothered. I’ve dabbled in photography and carpentry and I’m working on some children’s books I’ve written and am illustrating. I’ve started and sold small businesses. I nearly became a doula and before that I wanted to be a naturopath. My entire life I’ve vacillated about attending law school, but would also love to study and write about philosophy. I’m a storyteller on a stage. Sometimes I’m silly, playful, absurd, unafraid of embarrassing myself; and sometimes I’m serious and fierce. I used to be a positively correct Mormon and then I was a positively correct and angry feminist social justice debater. Now I’m a builder, nurturer, and manager of community via a unique coworking space. My values have changed and I’m not who I was two weeks ago. Who knows what will happen in a year?
Maybe it’s okay to not be able to put people into boxes. To not understand people at a distance or even up close for years. We can just grow together in simultaneous humble confusion, recognizing that people are different versions of themselves with everyone they encounter, and with every major life event that adds to or subtracts from their feelings of security about the world. We are entire universes bumping up against each other, never the same exact people as we were the last time we showed ourselves to each other.
I am nothing I can explain quickly and neither are you.