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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our Masks

I'm currently reading the book "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Piccoult (I think SaraK is a fan). I haven't gotten very far yet, but the basic premise is a high school student who opens fire on his classmates at school one day, killing ten. What I have found interesting so far is the discussion of hiding who we are in the book.

Several of the students in the book discuss how they feel no one sees the real them, who they really are. Scraps echoes this thought in her most recent post and I know I have certainly felt the same way many times. I feel as if I play a part, sometimes multiple roles in life, depending on my surroundings. All these parts and roles are actually an element of who I am, and to be honest, I think in some ways, as I have gotten older, I have gotten better at showing my true, whole self to people, but often I do hide.

I hide in certain situations in order to not cause a fuss, to not stir up trouble, to pick my fights carefully. I refrain from speaking up if I don't agree because I know that the person I am talking to won't be able or willing to see things from my perspective anyway, so I just hide and keep quiet.

Other times I hide because I'm not proud of parts of who I am, and I'm afraid if people see those parts they will judge me. It's easy to say out loud that I don't care about what other people think, but to really, really actualize that is much harder. If I really didn't care, it wouldn't hurt when people turned their back or told me they disapprove. But it does. I do care.

I wonder if we ever really take our masks off fully. If there really is one integrated person inside that doesn't change somewhat depending on the setting one is in. That doesn't use his or her chameleon colors at times to blend.

I wonder if some bloggers, mainly those who are anonymous, use their blogging to shed their masks, to reveal all their true colors, to feel really themselves. Though while doing so, they are using the mantle of the anonymity of the Internet as another mask. I do to an extent, but I still keep my mask on often when I blog, mainly because I know who reads it.

Can we ever really unmask ourselves?

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I just managed to read this post by the Curious Jew, which has been touted as the "Post of the Year." Whoa.

I'm so impressed with Chana, for so many reasons delineated in this post (and other reasons that have nothing to do with the post). In reading it, I was struck by the knowledge of why I did NOT grow up in an Orthodox environment.

I've always done my own thing, been a bit different (not weird, just different). Never a follower, but not a leader either. There were times when I wanted to fit in, to be like everyone else. And there were times when I tried. But it never really took. I'm not sure why it never took; I guess there's something inside that just didn't want to be like everyone else, that pushed back at the face of conformity and fitting in and copying what the rest of the world was doing. But I just never could do it. And that was way hard sometimes. But I couldn't help it.

I was incredibly lucky though. I went to a public high school. But not just any public high school, an excellent public high school, one that really nurtured every student and allowed them each the individual care and interests they needed. I was encouraged to formulate my own path, to explore whatever interests I had, to be artsy and creative and to learn to critically think and question. It was a unique experience and I feel incredibly fortunate, especially when I read Chana's tale, to have had it.

Because when I was in high school, if I had gone through the experience Chana did, I don't think I would have made it. I don't think I would have been strong enough at that point. It has taken me a good part of my 29 years to be comfortable and really embrace who I am, and that it really is ok, and good, to be different and myself regardless of whether that fits anyone else's mold. Because while I always did my own thing, for a long time it hurt and made me lonely and sometimes sad. It still does on occasion. But in general, I feel like I've become a strong enough person to handle it now.

So when I read Chana's account of what happened in her high school, which, from what I have heard, is not particularly unusual for Orthodox schools, I am in awe of the fact that she held on and has been able to come back. That she searched and found a light in that which turned her off so much. It would have been incredibly easy to walk away completely. But she didn't. I know others like her who have been so hurt - some did walk away, some didn't. Some became stronger because of it, some weaker. I think I would have fallen into the category of those who became weaker.

So I guess it does all work out for the best. As much as it is sometimes challenging to not have grown up in this denomination that so highly values the lineage of its participants, that has so much emphasis on family participation, which sometimes leaves me feeling outside the arena, I see why I didn't have the experience of growing up that way. Why I found it later, and could appreciate it, since it hadn't been ruined.

As much as we wish for our neighbor's lot, and the grass seems greener on the other side, I'll take what I got.