Being Someone Else

Growing up as the awkward gay kid in a small town in 1960s Nebraska, the unverbalized message from family and peers was, “Don’t be yourself, don’t be proud of who you are.” Kids are especially conscious of what other people’s opinions of them are. Acceptance by other people is especially important to young people. Childhood and adolescence are when we understand more deeply who we are, who likes us, and who dislikes us. That stage of our lives is when we most want to “fit in”.

Young people are most sensitive to not being accepted by their peers. We form our social masks when we’re young. At least, that’s what I learned as a kid. In order to survive the harsh social conditions of childhood and adolescence the social mask was a vitally important tool. I had to pretend to be someone else. It was also necessary to “lay low” and adopt the persona of a wallflower. When I say necessary, I mean that it was actually the case. In the 1960s the gay pride movement was in its infancy and certainly had not reached the boondocks of Nebraska.

It wasn’t until the college years when I first found out that to have a good life, a person had to accept her or himself. My new colleagues came from different regions of the country and some were born and raised in different countries. The first year of college was a time of great awakening.

In 1971, while selecting my textbooks at the college book store, I stumbled across a copy of the Tao te Ching. It was a slim book and had a “used” sticker on the cover so it was cheap. One day after finishing homework assignments, I picked up the little book. There was a passage that really hit home. “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.” This drop of wisdom opened the emotional floodgates in the quest to learn more about authenticity.

Something else took place that really demonstrated the power of being oneself. I got my first boyfriend. More accurately, he convinced me to become his boyfriend. Tom was one of the unabashedly out of the closet gay guys on campus. It was unnerving and somewhat intimidating when Tom approached and asked me to be his movie date. He was persistent. You could say he stalked me, but in a really good way.

Near the end of the second semester, I finally relented. I fell for the crazy hippie and his down to brass tacks logic. It happened while he pleaded his case. Tom said something like, “You’ve got to be yourself. You can be stupid. You can be brainy. You can be queer if that’s who you really are.”

We not only dated, we became “an item”. Not everyone was happy that Tom and I were together. There was plenty of harassment. But we were there for each other. Both of us grew and became more free. I wouldn’t have it any other way from then on.

The relationship ended at the end of our sophomore year when Tom transferred to Stanford University. I eventually got over the loss, but the lessons about being authentic and myself remained. Since then, there have been other relationships, good and bad. I do my best to always be myself and speak my mind whenever it is necessary.

While going through my book of quotations in order to locate an ending snippet for this blog post I came across a good cautionary quote. The play-write J.B. Priestley said, “‘Be yourself’ is about the worst advice you can give to some people.” This was followed by some advice from writer/comedian Joss Whedon. “Remember to always be yourself… unless you suck.” In other words, we should be ourselves, but don’t let it get to our heads.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes singer Tony Bennett. “It sounds so simple, but if you just be yourself, you’re different than anyone else.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Friendship, Health, Hometown, Meanderings, Youth and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Being Someone Else

  1. Be yourself unless you suck… I love that quote 🙂

    • swabby429 says:

      Yes, and quite wise, too.

    • SoundEagle says:

      Agreeing with Jess! I am delighted that you were acquainted with Tao te Ching at an early age.

      We should send the following quote to Trump:

      “A leader is best
      When people barely know he exists
      Of a good leader, who talks little,
      When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
      They will say, “We did this ourselves.”

      ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

      Since your current post contains a fair number of quotes, I would like to inform you that I have published a very long post on quotation, and would really love to know what you think of the post and what your favourite quote from the post is.

      Looking forward to reading your comment there!

      • swabby429 says:

        Yes, the passage about leaders also came to my mind. Unfortunately, he would probably call it “fake news”. I will check out your quotations.

      • SoundEagle says:

        What has your ex-boyfriend been doing after graduating from Stanford?

      • swabby429 says:

        I’m not sure. We lost track of each other over 20 years ago. Tom was studying psychology, so I can only guess he is involved in that field or has a professional practice as a counselor.

      • SoundEagle says:

        We should also send the following quote to Trump:

        All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.

        ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

      • swabby429 says:

        Will that fit in a Tweet? I don’t have a Twitter. Apparently that is all he reads.

      • SoundEagle says:

        As long as it is 140 characters or less.

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