A symptom of aiming to please each group that I’ve interacted with in my life was that I have split myself up and spread myself too thin. I’ve generated and worked in multiple personas depending on who I’m around at a given time. As a result I’ve never fully been open with anyone which has ended up as a recipe for being awkward and alone.
My Cambodian family self is separate from my American schooling self. My Martial Artists self is separate from my Video Gamer self. My Computer geek self is separate from my Car geek self. My own family self is separated from my work self. Add on top of that I have an entire very private side of myself that I’ve kept mostly closeted, and I do mean closeted – my orientation.
A big part of the crossroads I’m at is that the family self, the parenting and the maintaining of a household and marriage was a full time 24×7 responsibility. It left very little room for the other pieces and, as I struggled to enjoy those other aspects and interests, I still kept things cordoned off and separated. I burned out and worse I failed at my responsibilities and I failed to commit 100% of myself to my family.
Everything was in their neat little boxes, until the house of cards just came tumbling down. I now ask myself, why did I keep everything in those boxes? Cowardice? Fear of not being accepted or fear of being judged by any one of those groups? Laziness for not putting in the effort to put all of those aspects of myself on the table with everyone I met?
Sure the fear might have made sense in the days when folks still made jokes about “other people” but those times have passed for the most part, despite the social divide that we face today. The laziness is admittedly a character flaw. Perhaps it was pride, in each of the boxes I had one or two things I was really good at, I suck at taking praise, but fear showing weaknesses lest they detract from the accomplishments.
No good reasons at all for spreading myself too thin, so now I’m writing this to try to figure out a path forward. Suck up the effort and put it all on the table. Realize that I need people in my life that care about me no matter what and, if any of it is offputting, then those aren’t the people I need in my life.
So, to lay out the cards good/bad/TMI in order to stop the split and the burnout:
- A Cambodian American, the firstborn of my family in this country
- A person struggling to be socially and professionally functional with no example, rulebook, or guidance on how to navigate American society and norms from my predecessors.
- Emotionally intelligent from all of the experiences of introspection and self-consciousness over the years; if I want to be accepted for my idiosyncrasies, I damn well should be open to accepting and empathizing with those of others.
- A brain hardwired for engineering that includes overanalyzing and a need to optimize everything, even things that you just can’t optimize.
- An incessant need to improve myself and the things around me, computers, electronics, home renovations, woodworking, martial arts, cars, my view of the world, the list goes on…
- …but only able to focus on a few at a time
- A person that tries to put others before himself to a detriment.
- A person that doesn’t subscribe to one person being better than another as a whole. There may be aspects where one person can be more talented than another, but there are likely just as many aspects where that is reversed.
- Anxious in social situations with a reasonable amount of desire to run away
- Confident in my individual abilities
- A fan of anime and manga stemming from a misguided youth of trying to find anything Asian related for me to make a connection with
- Proud that I’m a black belt and ashamed I don’t still actively practice
- Likely watch too much pornography because of repressing the prior two bullets.
- Desensitized to just about everything, not much can be offputting to me other than closed-mindedness
- I’ll try just about anything once
- I think anything can be healthy with the key being moderation.
- Avid Video Gamer as an escape
- Self-conscious that many of my interests betray my age and what my maturity level should be