Layered and textured.
A million moving parts, all intricately put together.
Depths that unfold the greater the exposure you have to me.
I thought I would find the fullest, richest, most rewarding version of myself when I understood how complicated I was.
I believed, or at least hoped for dear life, that I was, in fact, complicated.
As Ezra Furman says in his song, Lousy Connection, I wanna see myself from the outside.
My surface is just for show – an easy smile; an accepting look; unruffled and unshaken by an unexpected turn of events.
Then there’s what’s going on underneath – an instinctive understanding of your motives; perception and foresight; a knowledge of the ages that will neuter the immediacy of your needs.
In high school, specifically Year 11 and 12, I would walk around the halls with my headphones on, pretending, yes pretending, to listen to music. Pretending to be lost in my own world.
Well, AA batteries were expensive and my Walkman chewed through them with never-sated appetite.
Also, I wanted people to notice me and wonder what I was listening to, this kid who defied No Walkman at School rule.
Even in free study periods. I’d be sitting next to my friends in a classroom while everyone else revised through practice test sheets or read and reread their notes for an upcoming exam, questions and answers flying around the room in a randomly conducted cacophony. I’d have my headphones on and be staring off into space, acting like I was in my own world, making it seem like I considered that what was going on here was inconsequential to me.
I was tending to more serious issues, contemplating life and the universe and my place within it all.
But not really.
Really, I was wondering who was paying attention to me; what were others thinking about my affect?
In Year 8 through 10 I got into the bad habit of wagging school. I wouldn’t take whole days off. I didn’t have the balls for that. What I would do is go to roll-call, sign in, attend classed up to recess or maybe even lunch and then soon after, along with a friend or two, we’d sneak out the back of the school into the labyrinthine streets of St Clair and off home. Mostly my motivations were too spark the curiosity of my classmates. To have them whisper to one another, Where’s Ken? He was definitely in 4th Period English.
What a badass. What a rogue operator.
I didn’t fully get this at the time – what I mean is that I didn’t have a name for this type of behaviour.
I do now – passivity.
I hoped what I couldn’t do while physically present, my absence would make up for. I imagined myself the centre of attention without being there.
This says a lot for how I valued myself at the time, that I assessed my worth by the impact my absence had. It was all I had, absence.
My point of difference.
My unique selling-point.
I needed a strong enough reason to stay and during those days, struggled to find anything to hold on to.
I eventually did find a reason to stay but even then I still enacted certain behaviours that served to put up barriers between myself and others and create separation.
I wanted to be there, but it was hard to be there in my skin.
The clearest example to can link this to is when I was twelve. There was this girl I had a crush on, Phillippa. Funny thing was, she had a crush on me too and she was open about it. She was the pursuer. She’d come up to me in the school yard and tell me she liked me and ask if I liked her?
I’d play coy.
She’d write me a note and pass it to me in class. Will you be my boyfriend?
I’d nearly pee myself.
But I liked her, so of course I wanted to be her boyfriend. And more than that I didn’t want her to be anyone’s girlfriend.
The thing was, I loved being pursued. I got a kick out of the attention.
And it was the same in Year 8 when I wagged off class.
It was equally as true in Year 12 when I sat in the Year 12 Common Room surrounded by my friends with a pair of headphones over my ears.
I wanted to be pursued.
I wanted to do things that made people gravitate towards me.
I just had no idea how to do this.
In the end when any attention came, I resented it.
You’re not the person I wanted to talk to me.
You’re not asking me the right questions.
You’ve distracted me.
You’re attracting unwanted attention in this direction.
No, no, no, no, no, no.
This attention made me feel awkward and exposed.
Nothing I did seemed to fit. Nothing seemed to work for me.
It was as if I was walking through life wearing the wrong size pair of shoes – some days they were too tight, other days too loose and slipping off.
I went ‘round in circles getting closer to no-one. Getting further away from myself. Becoming the person I thought I needed to be – someone else. Not following my gut instinct. Second guessing myself. Trying to become but spiralling in unfocused directions.
I thought my truth was in being complicated, mysterious, enigmatic, aloof.
But I’ve come to understand that my truth is very far from this place.
These past years have been about uncomplicating myself.
Taking apart any fixed notion I’ve held of who I am.
I thought because I aspired to be a writer, depth of character meant being in possession of an intellect that set me apart, placed me above others.
Only by turning myself into a human Rubix Cube would I then be able to put something of worth on the page.
The reality is I’m not complicated at all.
I don’t always understand myself completely. Sometimes I betray my feelings or my intention by taking an unjustified contrary and stubborn position. There are times I make things harder for myself (and as a result those around me) than they need to be.
I’m quite simple when it comes down to it.
I need love. I need attention. I need to feel like I’m making a difference in the world around me. Seeing progress being made is essential. I have to believe I’m consistently contributing to making myself better and better and better.
I’ve spent so many years tying myself up in knots only to spend these days unravelling the tangled ball of wool I’ve wrapped around me.
Life doesn’t have a Ctrl-Z to undo previous actions, erase past behaviours and unhelpful patterns from my journey. All I can do is make sure each sentence I write is as clear, clean and true as I can make it.
And what ends up on the page is as close to whom I am as I can write it.