The Burden of Dogma.

It’s a foregone conclusion that as we get older, we let go of many of the powerful, intractable ideals and trappings of identity that we create as youths. What was once a life-and-death struggle to forge opinions and create a persona, desperately trying to make sense of confusing ethics and life choices, gently flutters into a more sober realization that we’re just us – and we believe what we believe. Cultural and political icons that once stirred us in the bosom and gave us indefatigable meaning in an otherwise pell-mell existence of conflicting ideologies no longer necessarily represent the apex of Right or Wrong. We’re not being dumbed down, or becoming less convicted in our world views. It’s just that there’s less time to spout dogma and there’s more interest in getting along in life, whatever the path. Not everyone grows out of this, and I have great respect for adults who tightly hold on to their politics and self-created identities from youth; sometimes the most charismatic and clear of mind are the ones who know where they stand – and where you stand in relation.

Me, I still have many of the belief systems that I’ve established from my younger years, but I’m clearly aware of their transition into more applicable methods of behavior that have merged with the paths I wish to follow as an adult. I’m still opinionated (and stubborn) as hell, but I’m always trying to ameliorate this with the wisdom of things I learn from other people along the way. In short: I don’t have time to carry the weight of ideology as a weapon against the injustices of society anymore, but I am still impassioned and moved by some of the principles that have been with me for many years. What I’ve lost, however, is some of my caring of self-identity. As with many people that I know, proudly touting the material and behavioral things that make me unique is growingly unimportant and even unsatisfying. Being recognized and appreciated for certain identifiable qualities that I hold dear still feels really good – when friends and family are reminded of you while going about their days, you become extra-real and somewhat immortal. It somewhat breaks my fear of our fragile impermanence.

But self-identity is starting to matter less and less to me. I’m still hyper-self-aware and even overly self-conscious, but who I am right now is not very connected to who I’ve always thought I’d built myself to be. It may be just a phase, because I still feel the desire to hold fast to my beliefs, and to put into action my own understanding of who I am. But I can’t spend my time trying to prove it to others anymore, as was so important in my younger years, and I have little energy left to defend that identity. How can other thirty-somethings still conjure the interest and pluck to be punk rock? To be goth? To be anarchic? To be anything other than just themselves? Is it just the fun of creating persona, to superficially exist in a sort of play-state where imagination is a pervasive factor in how one relates to the world? Perhaps it’s a constant state of childhood, trying to seek approval through a peripheral kind of screening process where others are coerced to see people a certain way.

Maybe that’s what growing up really means – the ceasing of the need to pretend. In the same breath, I rely upon pretending on a daily basis. It fuels my life progress and fulfills my flair for the romantic. It keeps me focused on my dreams and lets me envision myself in the future, doing the things I want to be doing. Laying the template, so to speak. The only carefully-crafted identity to which I tightly cling these days, then, is that of the wanderer and wonderer. And I must pretend that I know where I’m going in order to be content with myself just now. But the only hat I insist on still wearing is that of joy and earnestness. It comes easily, even through the tumult. That’s the identity that I desire, now and far beyond my living years.

13 Responses to “The Burden of Dogma.”

  1. verdandiweaves Says:
    November 27th, 2006 at 3:18 am

    What an excellent, thoughtful and inspiring post.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:31 am

    Coming from you, this means quite a lot.

  3. podle Says:
    November 27th, 2006 at 11:02 am

    If I may say so, the hat of joy and earnestness suits you quite well.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:32 am

    There's enough room under it for both our huge melons. 😉

  5. jacesan Says:
    November 27th, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Growing up we wanted to be adults because they knew things that we didn't, and learning those things would make us more adult-like. Now it's become blindingly apparent that those adults were "pretending" all along. Now it's our turn to "pretend" that we know where we're going, why we're headed there, and the best paths to take. 😉

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:36 am

    I'll always feel like my parents actually knew what the hell was going on, and I still do today, as many times as they may tell me what you're stating here.

  7. inbody Says:
    November 27th, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Oh my god, I was just thinking that.

  8. no_mans_land Says:
    November 27th, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    <small>i'm in the midst of a quarter-life crisis [heh], so it's nice to get some insight into what the next phase might hold.
    the process of shedding a superficial persona has been underway for a while. i'd like to say that i've completely grown out of it, but i probably shouldn't issue that credit quite yet.
    goth to the grave, mofos.

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:38 am

    If you're still goth by the time you hit your third-life crisis, I'm personally coming to NY and rubbing your eyebrows clean off.

  10. angledge Says:
    November 29th, 2006 at 7:08 am

    I think that as we get older, things that were once black-&-white start becoming more nuanced. I've gotten a lot better about stepping back & trying to see situations from someone else's eyes before I proclaim what is Right And True ™.
    Sometimes I miss the clarity. For example, I miss the unalloyed feeling of pride & love that I felt as a child when I would hear the Star-Spangled Banner. Now when I hear it, the patriotic feelings are spiked with doubts & cynicism. And then I question myself for all the feelings. Then the song's over & I'm wishing I could hear it again, to try to listen with a child's heart.
    Being an adult is much harder than I thought it was going to be.

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:35 am

    You put it so well, and so clearly from a similar angle.

  12. dryad_wombat Says:
    November 29th, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    the only hat I insist on still wearing is that of joy and earnestness.
    Amen, brother! I echo you wholeheartedly!
    And we want to send you a card 🙂 – are you still at 30th Ave? (Feel free to delete this comment for privacy too)

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 1:33 am

    Still here at Le Chateau. Can't wait to hear from you!

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