Childhood: vaguely observing.
Due to having a few fits soon after my birth I was on prescription drugs until well into primary school. My memories of my life to then tend to be rather vague. Whether this was the result of the drugs or just my natural inclination I have no way of knowing. (I still find I can get lost in thinking and not notice time passing).
In my early life I would find myself puzzled about why people did things or about how things worked. For instance at church we were told that sharing was good. Then at the pool I was told that it was good to share but not give to whoever asked you for something (I had lent my zippy board to someone who had asked). My response to this was not frustration so much as puzzlement – withdrawing and thinking.
Something would feel wrong to me but I didn’t know what. Or how to find out what it was. I felt confident that I was loved by my parents but not confident of the world beyond home: in this outside world I felt like an observer.
Adolescence: rebelling against conformity
Like most adolescents I suppose I was a bit of a rebel – or thought I was anyway. For me this was focused on thinking about things and questioning.
Why wear a tie at school? And why should people be punished for not wearing one? Why was long hair not good? And was neatness really that important anyway? Was organising a future career around money really the way to go? Was a career if it came to that?
In short, the usual kinds of rebellion against conforming to the prevailing culture. It became clear that in order to be accepted you were expected to conform. I didn’t find this altogether acceptable – and in some ways still don’t. Didn’t people want to know me as I really was?
In many ways I was fortunate to be part of a church. In the evangelical culture being honest about ourselves was encouraged in some ways (and not in others!). For me the church was something of a haven where I could be a little more myself than other places (like school).
During adolescence I found it easy to be dismissive of conformity and to prize individuality and authenticity. Looking back this was only possible on the loyalty and strength of belonging to both my family and my church.
Young Adult: do they really want to know?
In my 20′s I had the experience within a few short weeks of a number of people that they wanted to get know me better. So, I didn’t censor what I said. It became obvious that they didn’t want to know Evan when he was cynical or just plain petty. Now, I think they meant that they wanted to feel closer to me emotionally (and in one case sexually). But they sure didn’t want to know all of who I was. There were very few places where authenticity in relationships was welcomed.
I was very fortunate during my 20′s to be part of a Christian mission group that took training seriously and self-awareness seriously too. This gave us the space to explore and find out what our gifts were. It was a truly remarkable organisation.
I was also fortunate that in the team I was with we also took this seriously. In that team we mostly did honour each others individuality (in however a clumsy and adolescent way). It showed me that it is possible to have an organisation that does not ask people to sacrifice their authenticity. This is still a very precious lesson for me.
For the last two decades there has been an undercurrent to my life: finding a way to make my living doing what I love. In short finding an authentic expression of who I am. This has been a long journey and has meant a fairly twisting and turning path. It has involved the study of acupuncture, counseling and teaching.
This time has mostly been attempts to start various kinds of small business. And my struggle generally was (and in some ways still is) marketing: or, how to present myself authentically. I didn’t do things the usual way but this is usually what people wanted. Challenging the categories and the usual ways of doing things was necessary to me, but didn’t make it easy to find customers. So the attempts at small business have usually been supplemented by income from other types of work.
At the moment I feel like I have arrived at a sense of who I am and what I have to offer. Who I am is someone who processes stuff and finds the core ideas or issues (this may be some one’s issues or the main ideas in a piece of writing). What I have to offer is the relating of ideas to experience to make a practical difference (my field is health in a very broad sense).
And my hope is that blogging is a way to express who I am. I feel that it suits my style – practical and to the point, focused on content – not the bells and whistles or glib presentation. It’s about how ideas can be used to make a worthwhile difference.
With blogging I think I have found an authentic way to express who I am. There is still much to be learned – I want to be a better writer, and there is still the whole money-making side of blogging to check out. But for now I am a place that I feel both contentment and excitement. It is a good place to be.