2017 minus 74: Who…? 

Posted: 19 October 2016 in 2017 minus, life, personal

Some housekeeping and information before today’s entry. 

There are 74 of these entries to go and even I – who am not short of a few words on most subjects – would probably find writing 1000 or more words a day for this place a stretch; moreover, no doubt you’d like a bit of novelty in format, and subject matter. 

So, this is what I’m planning. To make it easier for me – and you –  of the seven posts a week, four will be brand new prose material, my thoughts on a subject or news event, or even some ‘slice of life’ stuff. One post – on Saturdays – will be deliberately lighter in tone, what I used to call “Saturday Smiles”. And since the name isn’t being used at the moment, I might as well do so.

Fiction for the two remaining days: one brand new story, one I’m pulling from the archives, from when I wrote for Elephant Words. I’ve linked to them in the past, but they’ve never appeared on the blog and since I have about three dozen to choose from, that most have never seen, I’ll put some of them up here. That ok with you? Good.

How do you answer the question “who are you?”

I’ve been watching the first few episodes of HBO’s Westworld and – no, don’t worry, I’m not about to spoil it for you, nor predict what’s going on. I wouldn’t do that without very heavy warnings.

But the question “who are you?” and its associated question “what do you do?” have always fascinated me. I mean, they’re not as daft as “how are you?” which, unless it’s a doctor asking you the question, is universally understood as requiring “fine, thanks” as an answer.

But “who are you?” 

It’s not a question that in and of itself informs you of the answer required. Instead, the circumstances in which it’s asked shape the answer required. At various times, I’ve been “Lee”, “Lee Barnett”, “Mr Barnett”, “Laura’s husband”, “Laura’s ex-husband” and, of course, most of the time over the past twenty or more years, “budgie”. And that’s ignoring the responses that cover “what do you do” equally well: “I’m the writer”, “I’m the financial director”, “I’m the lodger”, etc.   

But none of those are themselves good answers. They just give the person asking something to call me, something by which to refer to me. Fantastic tales notwithstanding, knowing someone’s name isn’t necessarily (I’ll grant you that caveat) giving you power over them. 

Who am I? I’m the result of millions of life experiences. I’m a firm believer in people being the sums of their own life experiences. (Also that life is a consecutive series of ‘well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…’, but that’s a diferent blog entry.) Change the experiences and you change the person. I lost a brother at 38. Had he been around for another ten years or more, my life experiences would be different, so I’d be a different person. Had I not married when I did, or had the marriage lasted shorter or longer than it did, I’d be a different person now. Better? Worse? No idea, but I’d be a different person for sure.

Who am I? I’m someone equally interested in the process by which a decision is reached as the decision itself. I like to know why things happen as much as how they happen. I’ve no interest in pretending they didn’t happen though.

Who am I? I’m a 52 year old man, who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, using slang and colloquialisms that I now detest, cracking gags at school of which I’m now ashamed. That they were “of that time” might explain the causal misogyny, racism and homophobic attitudes, but it doesn’t excuse them. I have no distinct memories of me being racist or homophobic, but I can’t in all honesty pretend it’s not likely I was. And yet, those childhood experiences made me – in part – the person I am today. Change them, and you change who I am. 

Who am I? I’m a Jew who has faced antisemitism, has been called jewboy, kike and hebe, who has been described as vermin and as an infestation. 

Who am I? I’m the boy who was a coward at school, who was regularly beaten up by bullies, and didn’t believe the “they respect you when you stand up to them” then, and I’m none too convinced now. What stopped me being bullied at school was a combination of a) me growing six inches in height in my fifth year at secondary school, b) getting some upper body strength, and c) hitting back and knocking down a bully, the last of which surprised both of us equally. It stopped almost overnight. It was the combination that stopped it, not just the last.

Who am I? I’m someone who I hope has learned from my own experiences and from those of others. I’m someone who tries to think before they speak, listen before I interrupt, and acknowledge that others’ experiences are often not only more relevant than my own but carry more weight.

Who am I? I’m a former accountant who still thinks that that’s a worthy profession, that business is not inherently immoral, and that neither is that business making a profit.  

Who am I? I’m a physical coward who somehow got used to ongoing pain from a foot with a couple of bones dying inside it.

Who am I? I’m someone with friends who forgive me when I fuck up, and understand me better than I sometimes appreciate. 

Who am I? I’m someone who enjoys history but dislikes museums; who enjoys music but can’t play an instrument; who enjoys rhetoric, but loathes demagoguery; who doesn’t enjoy sport on the whole, but quite enjoys others’ enjoyment of it.

Who am I? I’m someone who’ll happily accept a compliment for what I do, but almost never for who I am.

Who am I? I’m someone.

So… who am I?

I’m me. 

Who are you?

See you tomorrow. With either some views on the US election and the debate, or an odd tale or two. We’ll see.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.


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