Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Many Faces of Charles

“Hi! My name is Charles.” When making introductions, that’s usually as far as I go. Because elaborating further would reveal that I am not a normal person, at least to most people’s standards. Take, for example, one of my hobbies: reading. When asked to elaborate, I state fantasy or science fiction. The common reaction I get? “So you read something like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?” While to a certain extent that’s true, I really want to elaborate that there’s more to fantasy and science-fiction than Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, in much the same way that there’s more to the Philippines than manila envelopes and Muslim terrorists. But doing so takes a lot of time and I might offend the person, so I just shut up and show them my expressionless face.

If I really want to be memorable, I’ll introduce myself as a stalker. There’s nothing like seeing the expression on a person’s face when you mention that you’re a stalker, since it’s the last thing they expect. A person introduces his good traits, not his bad ones. Of course I use this technique sparingly. Some people might take me too seriously, after all, and there are laws against stalking. While the reactions are varied, one thing that remains constant is that I’m remembered. It’s not everyday, after all, that someone introduces themselves as a stalker.

More often than not, I let other people introduce me. I’d appear less arrogant that way, and it’s interesting to hear what other people have to say about me. I mean it’s one thing to claim that you’re this type of person and it’s another to hear another person describe you. Sometimes, they use the traits I provided earlier. Other times, it’s something entirely different, with varying results. I mean I’m grateful when I’m praised. When I’m criticized, well, I can always laugh and pretend it’s a joke.

Why go through all these complexities? Because I do care about public opinion, especially when it concerns me. There are many ways to earn a reputation. Some reputations can be bought. I want mine to be earned. While I’m quick to claim credit for an accomplishment of mine, I decline just as fast any compliments or criticisms that’s not warranted or does not have a basis. In fact, I’ll be the first person to note what my strengths and weaknesses are (no matter how humiliating they can be). What’s important to me is the truth, and that first and foremost, they should come from me.

Of course having said that, there’s a huge part of me that’s hidden. For every fact I reveal, there’ll be ten secrets concealed. I mean we can’t be totally transparent to everyone. Some might use the excuse that we might be taken advantaged of or that if other people knew who we truly were, they’d stop caring about us. While to a certain extent those are true, my stance is this: we honestly can’t show everything to someone because it’s physically impossible to do so. In the attempt, we might appear too self-centered. Some of our traits are relevant to the situation, while at other times, it’s not. Learning when to say something and when not to say something is quite important. And as much as I want to talk about myself, it’s also just as vital to learn when to listen, to hear what others have to say about themselves as well as myself. Sometimes, my personal life doesn’t even matter; what counts is the dialogue between two social beings.

In the end, it doesn’t bother me that I live all these duplicitous lives. I mean as a human being, we all have different roles, whether it be as a friend, a lover, a parent, a child, a student, a teacher, or a confidant. We’re not stuck in one role but rather fulfill these characteristics all at once (of course it goes without saying that usually only one or two is reflected in our personality at any one time). It’s not a crime to be a multi-faceted person, just as it’s not a crime to specialize in several fields, to have several hobbies, or to even have varied friends and relatives. I’m not a tool that has only one function, I’m a human being with all the complexities that go along with it. Charles is a complicated entity, with truths and lies enshrouding his true self. In the end, you can’t even trust the very words you are reading. After all, even this is a form of introduction, and who can say how far I’m revealing myself through words that constantly elude the true meaning of humanity.