By Taylor Burgess – Opinion Columnist |
Let me (or both of us, as this event happened to “me” in the past but is being retold by me now—but enough of that; I’ll allow ‘me’ to talk) tell you a story: some old friends of mine passed through Birmingham this weekend, staying at my dorm after spending the evening downtown at a concert. One sat in a chair, framed against the glow of my kitchenette, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d been ripped out a similar scene in Tallahassee, Florida, five hours away, and crudely Photoshopped into my living room.
When my roommates joined us a few minutes later, the phenomenon distilled itself: the multiple identities existing within my own body were panicking, uncertain whether Taylor, Samford student living in Luther Hall, or Taylor, occasional Floridian, should take the wheel. I turned to my guests, and my face conformed to certain worn-in patterns of expression I’d known for years; I faced my roommates, and my sentences took on distinct shapes within the limits of a particular lexicon I’d developed during my time at Samford.
Nevertheless, the shifts were seamless, such that no one else in the room noticed—it was like wearing uncomfortable shoes or writing with an unfamiliar pen, things I’m acutely aware of internally that an outside observer would have to pay close attention to see.
So while the behavioral changes felt earth-shattering to me, they probably only manifested themselves in a choice word or significant glance. Either way, my core still had a hairline crack, one that seemed indicative of a more comprehensive paradox I’d never before been in the proper context to acknowledge.
Namely, my self proved itself distinct from itself. Simplistically, naively, you could say I merely put on masks. But how can this be? My thoughts, words, face, movements, tics, timing, and bodily functions all vary situationally. I am creating new beings constantly, at an infinitely split frame rate.
Swapping at such a fast clip, the identities shuffle and merge in strange patterns: back in the dorm with my roommates and traveling friends, I eventually settled into a groove that provided the perspective needed to relate to both groups simultaneously, taking cues from both previously discrete entities—a new identity, really.
With this sort of successive layering, it becomes difficult to pick out exactly which me “I” refers to, and, for that matter, whether I mean the collective of the individual “me” or all of “you” or both by the ambiguous “we.”
So I, one Taylor, challenge you, some endless multiplicity, to embrace, unlike Taylor, panicking dorm resident, your plurality. Don’t berate yourself for not behaving consistently, speaking exactly as you intend, thinking like a wholly rational person or succeeding in every task you feel you should.
The you doing the berating probably didn’t do or think the thing anyway, and totally doesn’t understand you, man. Apologies—Taylor, attempted humorist through self-conscious hackneyed colloquialism and subsequent affected, verbose, run-on apposition, slipped through.