Keith and I have been blessed with a house. We have a good relationship with our landlady, a church member, and her husband, who is our neighbour at the farm. Being in a house of our own means that it’s okay to play our instruments, to shout potentially embarrassing things across the house… and go around singing little songs we made up… and other noisy activities. Except that all summer, the windows were open. I wonder what the neighbours thought.
Everywhere in the world, we have certain behaviours which we only do around people with whom we are comfortable. We only share very personal thoughts with those we trust. Each place, each group of people, has certain levels and expectations for the way people behave in public. In Japan, I think Hokkaido is fairly relaxed, like Seattle is compared to Boston. In Seattle, I could go to the grocery store in dirty jeans, whereas I felt awkward riding the subway in clean, tidy jeans in Boston, surrounded by business people in suits. In Seattle, we are also a lot more open with our thoughts and feelings and struggles than I felt able to be in Boston, or in Japan.
I confess I have an embarrassing hobby: I read manga. Actually, in Japan, this isn’t embarrassing at all; it’s quite common, and it’s a good way to start conversations with other people my age. As long as I stay firmly rooted in the real world with real people, I don’t see myself as being in any danger from my hobby.
But I digress. Last week I started reading a manga about a girl who hides her “true” self—all her embarrassing habits, hobbies, and tastes—and creates a completely different persona when she’s outside the protective space of her own home and her family and close friends. The tension points of the story revolve around the protagonist trying to keep her true self hidden so will not return to the ostracism and pain she experienced as a child.
We all have our public and private personas. Underneath the surface, we are all people with embarrassing habits and hobbies and tastes. The public persona competes with all the other public personas—how well can I pass myself off as perfect? How well can I hide the “real” me? (How good does my life look on Facebook?) I resonated with the protagonist of the previously mentioned manga because as a child, I really didn’t know how to create a “public persona.” I said exactly what I thought (often arrogant and socially awkward thoughts) and I behaved the same at school as at home.
|In my natural state, 5th grade (hair surprisingly tidy for that time of my life)|
|High school senior year, public persona fully formed|
I hope that I can live in such a way that my actions reflect what is in my heart—and that I can do this without shame, hiding nothing. And yet there will always be layers, which are slowly peeled away as trust is built. I can be comfortable at home with Keith, comfortable sharing my struggles and joys with close friends, comfortable sharing prayers and answers to prayer with friends at church. I'm praying for wisdom to be open when it is helpful and closed when I need to be.