fake people

Exit 153. Good advice from a bad application.

I recently came across a meme, a screen shot of a conversation about malaphors.  A malaphor is the mixing of two or more familiar expressions.  The origin of the word seems to be a mixing of the suffix mal-, from Latin for “bad,” with the word metaphor, ultimately derived from the Greek for “apply,” as in applying a word to something else that it does not mean literally.  So a malaphor is literally a “bad application.”

A commonly cited example of a malaphor is “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.”  The actual saying is “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” meaning not to worry about things that might not even happen.  The burning part comes from the saying “burning bridges,” which means walking away from something and leaving no possibility of turning back, just as literally burning a bridge would leave one permanently on one side of the water with no possibility of crossing back to the other side.

Shortly after I saw this meme, I overheard someone talking about having had a really rough day.  The incident that set her over the edge was not necessarily something all that serious in and of itself, but given a buildup of little things that had previously happened, that incident led to a huge argument.  She referred to it as “the needle that broke the haystack.”  I was amused with that description, because that is another malaphor.  The actual phrase she intended to use is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (or the shorter variation “the last straw”), meaning a minor event that causes a major reaction because of the buildup of other minor events.  A camel can easily carry a straw on its back, but when already laden with hundreds of pounds of straw, or other burdens, one straw may be enough to break the camel.  She got this phrase confused with “finding a needle in a haystack,” referring to an extremely difficult and arduous task.

This morning, I was thinking about recent changes in my life and social circles, and wondering whether it is time to cut off certain potentially toxic individuals entirely.  I hate to cut people out of my life.  If I was once close with someone, or if I once saw something good in someone I didn’t know well, I often wish that things could be the way they once were and we could be close again.  And if I do happen to run across any of these people again, I don’t like the awkward situation of possibly having to explain why I cut them out of my life.  But on the other hand, I need to take care of myself, and it seems dangerous to give people opportunities to do or say hurtful things, especially in cases when I’ve been hurt before.

And then it hit me.  A thought crossed my mind from one of these malaphors.  Good advice from a bad application.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

As I said before, there have been some changes lately, the kind of changes in which I am naturally growing apart from the people who are making me feel conflicted about this.  So it might not really be an issue at all.  I might see these people so infrequently going forward that I won’t have to worry about any toxic interactions.  A lot of this is all in my head.  So maybe the best decision is to just wait and see.  To let former friendships die a natural death.  And if any of these people do cross paths with me again, if things end up being hurtful, then maybe I’ll say something face to face and/or block them from all social media.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

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Exit 152. Three years.

As of this week, I have now been writing this blog for three years.  What does that mean?  Nothing really.  It hasn’t grown nearly as quickly as some other blogs I’ve followed, but that is mostly because I haven’t actively promoted it all that much, and because it doesn’t have a specific topic tied to it that people can search for.  And it’s not necessarily supposed to.

I have made some new friends through this blog, people who, after randomly finding posts of mine, follow me and I follow them.  I don’t have hundreds of adoring fans, like celebrities or like some of the blogs I follow.  And some of the people who used to follow me don’t anymore.  But that’s okay, because that’s how real life is too.

I’ve said before that part of the reason I feel so lost in the world is because I’ve been looking for ways to live like I’m in my early 20s again, with friends who live nearby and a church group that also doubles as a social circle.  That’s not going to happen.  That’s not how life is, and I can’t change that.  But what I can do is make the most of what I have.  My social circle isn’t going to be huge.  But it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be. And it will change.  People grow apart.  People’s actions reveal who they really are, and it is better to let go than to stay angry and hurt.

I can’t change other people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.  I can stay close to the people who have stayed close to me.  I can try new things, since some of what I’m doing now isn’t working.  Or maybe it’s time for another party at my house, to try to keep my circle intact.  Or maybe some combination of those things.

Exit 150. You’re not real and you can’t save me.

The title is a quote from the 2003 song “Everybody’s Fool,” by Evanescence.

Another song from this album was much more well-known than this one, and as I’ve written before, that other song led to a bonding experience between me and one of my students that year who really turned her grades around after that.  But now, after a couple years of listening to that album and a lot more years of hearing songs from it pop up when I have my music on shuffle, I think that Everybody’s Fool has definitely emerged as my favorite on the album… although I don’t know that it matters at this point.

Anyway, the video depicts the character that Amy is portraying filming commercials in a variety of costumes that look very little like her real self, alternating with her real self struggling to come to terms with these fake images that she is known for.  Amy wrote the song as a teenager, after her younger sister began following teen pop idol type singers who use their fake images to sell music.  I don’t claim to be an authority on the meaning of lyrics written by someone else, but in these lyrics, the character appears to be singing to her fake self in the second person.

I’ve been there.  I’ve tried to be something I’m not, I’ve been tempted to be someone I’m not, and it never leads to good in the long run.  But the lyrics also resonate with me on a more literal sense, as if I could sing them to someone else other than myself.  I could just as easily be saying this to all the so-called “friends” I’ve had over the years who aren’t at all the people I thought they were when I first met them, who are constantly trying to be someone they’re not.  Or I could be saying this to all the misconceptions I’ve had about what life should be like, all the pieces that were supposed to fall into place in the magical fantasy land that I was told I would be living in.

It never was and never will be.

You’re not real and you can’t save me.

Exit 133. Time to go our separate ways.

I’ve known you for many, many years.  I’ve trusted you with some very important secrets.  I’ve defended you to others who don’t like you and keep telling me that I can do better.

And yet you betrayed my trust.  You told lies and engaged in shady unethical behavior for purely selfish reasons.  Although I don’t believe that you put any secrets of mine at risk, I can’t say the same for everyone else who trusted you, and it was probably only a matter of time before you used me as well.

So, after 21 years, it is time to go our separate ways.  I have moved on.  I’m over you.  Time to make a new start with someone else.  It’s done.

For the record, this is about my bank.  The bank that I have used for the last 21 years was caught in a scandal recently, and as of this weekend I have finished moving my money elsewhere and cutting all ties to them.  This post wasn’t about a friend or a significant other, and it isn’t intended to passively-aggressively call anyone out.  But if the shoe fits…

I’ve said this before.  I hate to cut anyone out of my life, because even when I grow apart from someone, I remember what it was like when we were close, and I always want to hold out hope that we may grow close again.  But sometimes holding on to something like this does more harm than good.  Not everyone whom I meet is going to be a close friend forever, or at all, and not everyone whom I choose to make a priority is going to make me a priority in their life in return.  It is exceedingly draining to keep investing my life and my emotional energy in someone who just doesn’t act like they care.  Maybe we were close once, but sometimes people change, and sometimes when I first want to be close to someone, I don’t realize what they are really like.

I’ve always had a hard time with this aspect of friendships and relationships, and it has been coming up again lately in a lot of places, including my experience with the bank.  Unfortunately, this is just part of life and of growing up.  Who to keep in my life and who to cut ties with is going to be a difficult decision…

Exit 99. Sometimes I feel guilty for having friends who care.

I’ve been going through a rough couple weeks, both because of issues with work and things going on with friends.  Times like this really make me appreciate the friends who are there for me, who are willing to listen when I’ve had a rough day, or invite me out for a last-minute karaoke outing at 11pm followed by the kind of crazy late night at Denny’s that have been fewer and farther between the last few years.  (By the way, I know that one of the individuals involved in the things going on with friends used to read Highway Pi, and in case she still does, I should point out that nothing in this post is intended to be passive-aggressive.  At this point, I feel that everything that needs to be said has.  And the nature of these issues is not where I’m going with the rest of this post anyway.)

Even though I greatly appreciate everyone who has been willing to listen and offer comfort the last few weeks, sometimes I feel guilty for having friends who care.

As I’ve said before, I had issues with outbursts as a child, to the point that it sometimes affected my ability to function in a classroom.  I’ve definitely outgrown this to some extent, but not entirely.  In elementary school, no one cared about how I was feeling.  I didn’t really have friends.  When I was upset, the other students would just laugh at me and provoke me to get a reaction, and adults such as teachers and my parents would generally make me feel ashamed for overreacting.  I know they were trying to help, trying to make me realize that my actions had consequences, and that better ways existed to deal with the issues underneath, but this had the unintended side effect of making me feel like I didn’t deserve to have people care about me when I was upset.  I remember about halfway through my first year of college, when I had my first such outburst in front of my new friends, I eventually left the dorm building and sat in my car for a while trying to calm down and decide what to do next, whether to run away and leave it all behind, or sneak back in the building, try to get some sleep, and apologize to everyone in the morning for my behavior.  I chose the second option, but I didn’t even make it to my room, because all my friends who saw me get upset had been in the lobby the whole time praying for me.  When they saw me come back, they didn’t seem upset at all; they were mostly relieved that I was safe.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I was expecting them not to want to talk to me anymore, or at least to be scolded for having that kind of reaction and reminded how inappropriately I was behaving, because that was the way I had been treated most of my life.

There weren’t exactly any outbursts involved recently… well, not quite.  But even when I’m feeling quietly upset, I’ve often been told that no one wants to hear about my problems, and no one really wants an honest answer when they ask me how I’m doing, it’s just an empty greeting.  (I’ve written about this before.)  So when I am upset, and I turn to a friend for a comforting ear, I always feel like I shouldn’t have to do this, and I feel like I need to apologize afterward.  I really don’t want to be seen as the kind of person who whines about everything to the point that no one wants to be around me.  I’ve been accused of that before.  But in my efforts not to be perceived that way, sometimes I am so cautious that I tend to think that the other extreme is preferable, where I feel like the ideal is to put on a fake happy face all the time.  Of course, I don’t put on a fake happy face, but the point is that I feel guilty because I’m not.

It really shouldn’t be this way.  That’s not what friendship is about.  Friends should be able to share everything with each other, the good days and the bad, both giving and receiving that comforting ear that is so often needed.  I don’t want to feel guilty for that.  But I don’t want to take advantage of people either.  There has to be a balance.

 

Exit 14. I changed my mind and decided to write about the act of changing one’s mind.

I have a bunch of thoughts swimming around in my head, and I hadn’t decided yet what to share this week.  There are some new developments regarding something I wrote about recently, and while I was thinking about how much I was ready to share about that, a song came on that seemed somewhat appropriate for the situation.  I was going to post this song with the warning that it is a country song, because some of my friends who read this blog hate country music with a fierce passion.  Then I changed my mind and decided to write about the act of changing one’s mind.  Yes, friends, this is how my brain works at the moment.  I’m very busy and scatterbrained.

Some see the changing of one’s mind as a weakness.  And by some, I mean the opponents of politicians who have change their mind and those who vote against politicians who have changed their mind without thinking about who or what they’re really voting for.  And there is often merit to this view.  There have been countless politicians who change their views as the views of the general public change just to get themselves elected, politicians who were for something before they were against it and the like.  But sometimes it is healthy to change one’s mind.  Sometimes you learn something that causes you to see other things differently.  Sometimes you just outgrow your old tastes.  Sometimes you really like a song in your early teens, then you outgrow it when your musical tastes change, then 23 years later you realize it was pretty cool after all, as I wrote about previously.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It isn’t always readily obvious if one is changing his or her mind to try to fit in or because they have learned and grown.  But usually fake people who change their minds to fit in or gain acceptance betray themselves eventually.

Going back to the train of thought that led to this post in the first place: One topic on which I changed my mind rather suddenly at one point in my life is country music.  Sometimes when someone has a strong opinion different from mine, I’m okay with it, live and let life, it’s not your thing, whatever.  Other times, especially if they’re being a jerk about their opinion, I wish I could punch them in the face, but I don’t, because that would be childish, and that would make me the jerk, not them.  But I always have mixed feelings how to react when someone says that they hate country music, because I was once one of them.  Growing up, my dad would sometimes listen to classic country, like Merle Haggard.  Mom would make fun of him for it, and most of the kids around me at school didn’t like country music, so therefore I didn’t like country music.  I was a teenager in the era of Billy Ray Cyrus and the early work of Garth Brooks, and they played that crap at every school dance, every football game, and every lunch time with music, and that turned me off of country music for a very long time.  My position eventually softened to the point that I could handle being in a room with country music playing; I just didn’t follow country music.  But I spent four months in my late 20s traveling across parts of 46 states, with everything I needed packed into the trunk and back seat of my Ford Focus, living out of Motel 6s, campgrounds with showers, and friends’ couches and spare bedrooms.  The details of that, and what led to it, are another story for another time.  A couple weeks into that trip, I was driving across Texas, there were a lot of country stations, and I figured what the heck, it’s Texas, may as well listen to what the locals listen to.  After about an hour, I realized that a lot of this wasn’t so bad.  I discovered the song in the video below on that day (July 5, 2005, if I remember right), and it almost brought me to tears because the lyrics (well, at least the chorus, not the part about his father dying) were pretty much about how I was trying to live at the time.  (WARNING:  The following link, and the other one at the end of this post, contain country music.  Do not click if you can’t handle listening to country music.)

I’m not one of those people who listens to nothing but country, and I never will be.  But I have definitely found a few country artists that I really like.  I went to a Brad Paisley concert a few weeks ago (that was the concert at which I got recognized) and had a great time, even though I felt out of place without a cowboy hat or a beer.  I was told, though, that most of those people were just phonies who were just dressing that way to give off that image.  They are probably the same people who change their minds to fit in.  I wonder how many of them were against country music before they were for country music.  And I wasn’t at the concert to fit in, I was there for the music.  And it was great music.  I’m not that thrilled with the direction that a lot of country music has been going lately, but that’s a topic for another column.

But it’s okay to change your mind.  I changed my opinion on country music because I’m a different person as an adult compared to who I was as a kid, with different experiences in life.  It’s healthy to change your mind based on learning and growth and new understandings of the world.  And those who change their minds just to fit in will be exposed eventually.

By the way, for my younger friends who may not have recognized the name Billy Ray Cyrus earlier, he is Miley’s dad.  Apparently musical talent doesn’t exactly run in that family. 😛 And I’m not necessarily referring here to anyone who reads this occasionally who is related to the Cyri, because I know there is at least one of you who fits that description.  And my facetious use of the Latin plural here brings this post full circle, because that is related to the story I wasn’t sure I was ready to share yet.  And I’m still not… that story hasn’t finished developing in real life.  If there ends up being a story to tell, I’ll tell it when I’m ready.  But in case any of you were wondering, This is the song I heard earlier.  Literally.

I’ll just end on this note for now.

Exit 3. Learn it till you earn it.

About a month ago, I was talking with someone about how I don’t give a very good first impression in certain situations, and that makes a certain aspect of life hard for me.  (I know I’m being vague here, but I can’t really go into specifics, given the sensitive ongoing nature of some things that are happening in real life right now.  If you know me in person, you can ask me privately.  That’s not important to the point I’m making today.)  She told me something along the lines of, “If you want to make a good impression, you’ve got to learn exactly what these people are looking for, and say and do those things.”  I said that I’m not good at BSing.  She said, “Then get good at it.  You’ve got to fake it till you make it.”

Fake it till you make it. I HATE THAT PHRASE WITH A FIERCE AND UNDYING PASSION.

There are two reasons I hate that phrase, one general and one specific.  The general reason is that faking it isn’t who I am, and fake people annoy me.  If someone doesn’t want the real me, then I don’t want to waste my time on them.  And I don’t want to waste my time with fake people who won’t let me see who they really are, although usually their real selves come out in some ugly way eventually.  More specifically, though, that phrase sticks out in my mind as part of an infamously memorable conversation I had 10 years ago.  I was attending a church that had a lot of problems.  I had been accused of things that were really misunderstandings and half-truths.  The details of what happened are the topic of another story, which I may tell someday, but essentially I felt like my state of social awkwardness was being treated like a sin I needed to repent from.  People were uncomfortable around me because I was a little different, and I was being told whom I was and wasn’t allowed to talk to in order not to make people uncomfortable.  (There are still a few people from that church who I’m in Facebook contact with; if any of them are reading this, please understand that I hold no grudges against you or this church, but that is honestly how the actions of that time made me feel.)  After all this crap hit the proverbial fan, I stayed at that church for three months, trying to figure out if maybe I had done something wrong, and I had some helpful conversations where I learned things that I did that may rub others the wrong way.  In one such conversation, someone was telling me that one of my traits that turns others off was that, when asked how I’m doing, I actually answer the question.  “When people ask, ‘How are you?'” she said, “they don’t really want you to answer how you are.  It’s more of a formality.  They just want you to smile and say fine.  No one cares if you’re having a bad day.”  I said that that seemed horribly fake, shallow, and disingenuous.  “You gotta fake it till you make it,” she said.

Honestly, I think what this individual was trying to tell me 10 years ago is that there’s a time and a place to talk about why you’re having a bad day.  And I agree with this.  I can see where some might find it unsettling if, say, a stranger in line at the grocery store whom I had never seen before were to start talking about their bad day.  And I know that I do have a tendency sometimes to dump all my problems on people I barely know.  This probably is something I should work on.  But this wasn’t about dumping my problems on strangers.  This was about being at church talking to other regulars at church who I know.  If I can’t talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ about my struggles, if I have to be fake and put on a happy face to cover all the hurt and brokenness, then the problem is with them, and with this church if this sort of mentality is encouraged there, not with me.  Let’s look at what might have happened if the people in the Bible had this mentality.  The passage starting in Mark 10:46 might have looked like this:

Then they came to Jericho.  As Jesus and his diciples, together with a large crowd were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus waved, and said, “Hey, Bartimaeus!  I hope you’re having a great day!”  Then he kept walking.  The disciples asked, “Why didn’t you help him?”  “Because his begging makes me uncomfortable,” Jesus said.  “That guy has serious mental issues.  There’s medication for people like him.  He just needs to fake it till he makes it.”

Or the passage starting in John 11:17, when Jesus comes to visit the recently deceased Lazarus’ family:

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.  “Jesus!” Martha said to him.  “Hi!  How are you?”  Jesus said to her, “I’m fine!  How are you?”  Martha answered, “I’m great!  Mary and I had a girls’ day, we went and got our nails done and went to Starbucks!  It’s kind of sad that my brother is dead, but hey, everything happens for a reason, right?  God is blessing my socks off!”

These are extreme examples, I know, but in concept they’re really no different.  This is not the Jesus I know, and a church that acts like this is not a church I want to be a part of.

Back to the other conversation, the one that happened recently: I have had another opportunity since then to make an impression in the sort of situation that prompted this discussion, and I don’t feel that it went well.  This lack of good impression is something that is negatively impacting my short-term goals in life, and thinking about this later in the day, I realized that I really need to start taking this more seriously and learning how to make a better impression in these situations.  And that got me thinking about faking it till I make it again, and how I can’t do this, I just can’t be fake.  But I realized something more important: I can learn how to do better in situations without being fake.  Before my friend used that phrase, she said that I needed to learn exactly what is expected in these situations and act accordingly.  I can’t be fake, I don’t want to pretend to be someone else solely to impress people, but what I can and must do is learn how to present myself so that my best side, and my most appropriate side for the situation, is what people see.  And this will be something I will work on in the immediate future, so that I can continue to move forward in this short-term life goal.  Learning and practicing for these situations isn’t necessarily synonymous with faking it.  So instead of using that phrase, I’m going to say “learn it till you earn it.”  I’m not faking.  I’m learning how to present myself better, how to make sure that the impression I leave is the side of me that the situation requires, but still really the real me.