“We all forget many of the things we do, especially when they do not fit into the character we have chosen for ourselves.”
– Fifth Business, p. 262
Davies is telling us that we pick and choose from the experiences of our lives to create the kind of person we chose to be. The assumption that people choose a certain character is hardly universal, and I can’t help but feel that there is at least some segment of humanity that simply allows itself to be, and that a group of people, be it massive or tiny, accepts the character he or she develops into.
If there exists a decision to be a certain character, then there must exist a desire to be that sort of person, an “I want to be…” statement if you will. Thus the suppression of painful memories just for the sake of fulfilling that desire can be likened to that of an infant throwing a tantrum for not getting what they wanted. It is quite conceivable to me that in the lack of an inflated ego and an ideal character that a person arbitrarily prescribes to him or herself, a person is able to accept whatever they might become. In this flexible state, painful memories are not easily forgotten, and, though a difficult process, these memories can be reconciled with a new and developing character that isn’t limited by some sort of ideal.
Letting go of who I wanted to be had encouraging effects. High school has been filled with various specimens of stress and pressure, be it the pressure to have good grades, the stress of finishing all the homework, or the social pressure that seems to dictate how one should act, stress and pain seemed ubiquitous. It all seemed so incredibly complex and the problems loomed large and far from any sort of solution. They seemed to block out the sunlight as I ran to catch the bus every morning.
One day my eight year old brother came into my room and started talking about the ipod he was determined to add to his drawer of dusty electronics. For a couple of weeks he had been lobbying my parents to buy it for him, and though he was met with a firm ‘no’ each time, he was so utterly convinced that he was going to get it, and talked endlessly about the apps he was going to put on it (I blame his friends who’s parents apparently caved to their kids desires). “Do you need the ipod?” I asked him, “I want the ipod,” he’d reply, after hesitating. “Why do you want it?” I’d say, “… I just want it!” he’d exclaim. And soon it began to dawn that the things we need are different from the things we want, that the things we need are needed for a clear reason, while the things we want are wanted for no reason, only because we covet them. He left my room giggling, still telling me that he wanted the ipod, albeit in a more unsure voice. I haven’t really heard him mention it since.
As I showed my brother the difference between needs and wants, I had shown myself that all my inflated and complex issues stemmed from a person I was forcing myself to become, because I wanted to be that person. Schoolwork burdened me because I wanted to be smart, and was afraid of not being smart. Talking to people other than close friends burdened me because I wanted to be dynamic, and was afraid of being awkward. I despaired at my future because I wanted to reach high ideals, and was afraid that they were too high. I already knew all this, but for the first time I noticed the word ‘want’. I decided that I did not ‘need’ to be that person. I came, at least relatively, to accept whatever I would become, and that the stress I imposed on myself for not being who I wanted to be is quite similar to a tantrum thrown for not getting something that I wanted. The sun was brighter that day.
TL;DR – Existentialist crises are marvellous fun.