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RE: You Are Not the Things You Like

I have a quick update before I begin this blog. If you follow me on RSS, you may have noticed a few random posts that seem to be incomplete or maybe a bit out of place. The reason for this is that I’ve been going through all of my old posts and editing. Some of these posts were saved in draft status, so if I don’t double check the date they publish as today instead of when I originally wrote/published them. I usually catch it once I check my RSS reader and see that I accidentally published it on the wrong date. Then I login and edit the post date. This is definitely going to happen some more over the next month or so while I try and get all this under control. So, enjoy the extra old posts that may pop up!

Last night, Parker sent me this blog post by Mike Grindle and fuck, Parker knows me well.

I’ve talked on and off about this very topic several times, but I feel like Mike managed to say everything so elegantly, while tying it into High Fidelity for bonus points.

Mike ends his post with:

But we are not the things we like. We are not a list of favorite records, films, books or sports teams. Nor are we our hobbies. We can express ourselves through these things and have fun doing so. Yet ultimately, “it’s what we are like” that brings something to the table, be it passion, thoughtfulness, creativity or whatever else. It’s those things that make conversations worth having, no matter the subject and, certainly, no matter who your favorite band or artist is. But I still might make more of a point of asking anyway.

I’m not really sure at what point our culture began honoring our interests in media. I mean, kids have always had toys and posters, but when did we start building shrines to our interests. I mean, I’ve done it forever. Heck, here is a picture of me from when I was ten years old and my bedroom.

Somewhere along the lines, I began idolizing people who had massive collections. I had a friend’s father who had an entire music room, floor to ceiling with CDs. I’d heard the best way to understand what a person likes is to look at his bookshelf, so I made sure I bought all the popular books for topics I liked. Then the completionist in me took over, and I had to buy all of the books related to a topic or in a series, because hey, I’m the guy who likes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you should know it from my bookshelf.

Of course, no one ever saw my bookshelf, so that was kind of a pointless endeavor, but this sort of thinking spread to everything I did. Comics, music, video games, action figures, Pop Figures, etc. Just a few years ago, I was reading the Firefly novels digitally, but I insisted on buying the hardback books, because I needed them for my Firefly shelf. I even bought one book that had two different versions, one that was exclusive for Barnes and Noble. I had no intention of ever opening or reading the books.

I sometimes wonder if my own insecurity of who I am plays into me using my interests as a distraction for how simple and basic my life may be. I don’t have any great stories. I don’t come from a rich family. I didn’t have a wild childhood. But hey, I’m the movie guy. I’m the guy you can hit up to talk about movies or 80s nostalgia.

Because my identity became entangled with my interests, it was difficult to let them go. I felt so entangled with my interests, that when they faltered, I faltered. Star Wars isn’t enjoyable anymore, well there goes something I’m interested in. Pro wrestling doesn’t do it for me anymore? Welp, there’s another piece of my personality gone. Two more things I don’t want to keep up with, but I feel like I need to so I can still be the “wrestling guy” or “Star Wars” guy.

After years of discussing how much I hate being defined by my interests, I began intentionally letting things go. I gave myself permission to not stay up to date on things, and to realize that sometimes you move on from interests. They aren’t tied to you for life. In On Horror Fandom (Or Remembering I Can Be a Fan Without Fandom) a previously unpublished blog post that I added this week, I discussed how I realized that I can still be a fan of something, and not be a MEGA FAN. I don’t have to own everything and see everything to still say I enjoy something. It doesn’t have to define me.

Mike did a great job of discussing this. He mentions, “… stuff does matter. After all, it’s through culture that we come to understand ourselves, our time, and our place.” Movies, TV, books, video games… these are great conversation starters for me. Everyone seems to have an opinion on something they like, and for a guy like me who sucks at small talk and works a terribly boring job, it’s really the best way for me to break the ice.

But I’m happy to be transitioning into a period of my life where my things no longer define me. I know it’s baffled some friends, and well… maybe it showed that our friendships were more based on a mutual interest from twenty years ago, rather than anything substantial today.

I can’t help but be reminded of the line in Fight Club.

I flipped through catalogs and wondered: What kind of dining set defines me as a person?

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