Presenting a Public Persona

Shelley Powers’ blog entry Get Used to Disappointments and the discussion of how much we reveal of ourselves in our blogs and Whiskey River’s entry entitled “the I is a multifaceted character,’ particularly the part where he quotes Joyce McDougall as saying

Each of us harbors in our inner universe a number of "characters," parts of ourselves that frequently operate in complete contradiction to one another, causing conflict and mental pain to our conscious selves. For we are relatively unacquainted with these hidden players and their roles. Whether we will it or not, our inner characters are constantly seeking a stage on which to play out their tragedies and comedies.

got me thinking about my public persona versus my real self.

I suspect that it is impossible, even for me, to totally distinguish between my public persona and my real self, though the two certainly aren’t synonymous.

I know I began this blog as an attempt to present my personal views on political events that were taking place. At first, it seemed natural to use a few literary references to illustrate my own public views.

At some point, though, it appears that my old “teaching persona,” a persona I thought I had willingly abandoned some five years ago, started appearing in this blog. I suspect that persona, though it only reflected a part of my personality, did reflect an essential part of who I am. Or, perhaps, teaching for thirty years has actually helped to shape who I truly am.

On the other hand, part of what I really like about writing this blog is that I am free to explore topics I felt uncomfortable exploring in a classroom in a conservative school district. I doubt that I would have ever felt comfortable exploring Kerouac or Ginsberg in a high school classroom, but I thrive on doing so here. So, I have certainly moved outside my teaching persona to establish a new persona for this web site.

Hopefully the persona I present here is closer to my “true” self than the persona I presented in the classroom, but I’m sure that this public persona is not my “complete self.” For me, the very act of writing puts a distance between myself and my immediate feelings. At work, I’m noted for occasionally been frustrated enough to use the “F” word, but I can’t remember ever using it here. Given time to think, it’s not a world I find particularly enlightening or informative.

The truth is that I am both short fused and reflective. I can be totally pissed off at a person one moment, and sympathetic the next. In other words, I get angry quickly, but also get over it equally quickly. I doubt that most of my readers would have gotten that impression of me from this blog. It’s not that I intentionally have hidden it, but neither is it part of the public persona that I try to present.

I also suspect most readers see me as more intellectual than I truly am, ironic when you consider that I purposely rejected a scholarly life for a life more directly involved with young people. One of the reasons I prefer poetry to other forms of writing is that it seems immediate and emotionally engaged, rather than intellectual.

Truthfully, though, I am probably happier building and knocking down Lego towers with Gavin or Kel than I am reading a poetry book. I would certainly rather hike in the mountains than read poems by Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, or even David Wagoner. In the end, it’s the quality of life itself that is most important to me, and poetry simply helps me to enjoy life more fully.