Finding Myself

As most of you that read this regularly know, I am slap bang in between my mid and late thirties, aka 37. I’m not going through a mid life crisis, but I am looking within a little more nowadays. I guess writing has that effect on you, but I think this new found introspective is definitely linked to the age bracket(s) I find myself inhabiting.

When at school, as a runny nosed, slightly dopey teenager, I thought that by now I’d have everything pretty much figured out. I was going to be an architect (I’m not an architect). I’d be happily married with 2, perhaps 3 children. (I am happily married, but have only one child, a daughter.) And according to the science books of the day, I thought I’d be travelling to work in a floating, auto-driven/navigated car. (I drive a petrol Audi, that I hope will never float; at least not whilst I’m in it.) To cut a long meandering story short, I’m still finding myself.

That term, ‘finding myself’ is so broad and covers so many aspects of my journey as a man trying to become a better man. Currently my ever changing list of self-improvement includes:

  • Fixing the way my right foot leans outwards as I walk. I only noticed it a few weeks back. I think it’s either as a result of my late teen swagger; trying to walk with a slight limp, not too exaggerated as to cause fellow London Bus passengers to give up their seats for me, but enough to look ‘cool’…allegedly. Don’t judge me, we all did it back then. I even went through a period where the right half of my upper lip would curl up during speech, creating a small pubescent haired trough. Cool again, allegedly. Or it could be because of my 4hr a day commute and more specifically the way I use my accelerator and brake pedals, but anyway.
  • The way I pronounce ‘th’. I pronounce ‘th’ in almost exactly the same way that I pronounce ‘f’. I blame the school system!
  • Getting fitter and eating better. Perhaps this is one of the more traditional actions of man getting closer to the big 40, but in my defense, I’ve been more health conscious for about the last 4 years now.

    Got the bike out this weekend!

The other is an extension of my long suffered ‘Sympathetic Accent’ syndrome. I find myself not only adjusting my accent, but also the vocabulary. This is usually tolerable, but becomes a problem when two people to whom I’ve assigned different lexicons, happen to speak with me at the same time. Do I go for slightly dumbed down or the high-brow, almost pedantic lexicon-set. Whichever I choose, one of the two persons will see me as a fraud, and to be honest I guess I am.

My wife does the same thing.  She grew up in a mixed background.  She was raised in Denmark, and had Turkish, Danish, German, Norwegian and Swedish roots. The result is a well rounded woman who can speak six languages, but also finds herself (to her annoyance) morphing into different versions of Mrs Rankine. Now my family tree isn’t as elaborate. I grew up in a two parent home, to two Jamaican parents. My mother was and still is quite English in her speech and her attitudes. My father is just as he was the first day he set foot in the UK. We took regular trips to Jamaica, where I had to adopt another me, to fit in; or at least to appear less different. At school I was Londoner, but more than that, I was a young black Londoner. At home, it was akin to blasphemy to use the E-word. ‘You’re not English!’ My father would protest. Not that he was xenophobic. I think it was just a reaction to the England he faced on arrival. It wasn’t uncommon in sixties London to see signs outside rental accommodation that read, “No Irish. No dogs. No blacks.” Another me had to be created to please the old man. You can see where this is going. I’ve been doing this for many years, and as they say ‘Old habits…’

My wife tells me that I’m the most self-confident person she knows. And to be honest I do feel comfortable in my skin; not because I think I’m hot. No, more because the creative and healthy me I see in the mirror, is so far removed from the skinny, shy, eczema covered, asthmatically hindered me I lived in as a child. But when I’m faced with the absurdity of my need to be accepted or to fit in, I can only conclude that I am not as comfortable as I might appear.

I have a new found respect for those who speak and carry themselves in a manner that they’re comfortable in, regardless of who they’re with. Integrity I guess. I’m still working at it.

A few years back!


About The Other Me

Londoner born and raised. Living in Denmark. Occasional singer/songwriter, music fan, nearly author, recovering procrastinator. To read or listen to the amateur stuff I call my art, click on the picture and press the links to either my FB, Wordpress or bandcamp pages. Thanks
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11 Responses to Finding Myself

  1. muteiny says:

    I’ve been told that “finding yourself” is a perpetual process, so don’t feel bad.

    I’m especially interested in the “Black Londoner” aspect of your experience. As a black American (with one Caribbean parent who understands what it’s like to still identify with the home country), I was wondering, is the history similar to that of Jim Crow in the United States?

    • The Other Me says:

      No there has never been government sanctioned segregation in the UK. A kind self imposed separation occurred, where immigrants like my parents, tended to settle and live in certain areas of certain cities (which we still see today to a lesser degree) By the time I was of school age, I was growing up in a widely mixed and relatively integrated part of London, but if you were to travel just 50 miles outside the capital, the demographic mix and attitudes changed considerably. The London my father found in the early sixties was a different place!

      I spoke of being a black Londoner with reference to image; both image of self and the image society perceived we should have.

      In reaction to your parent’s connection to their home country, it’s funny how our parents, and we, the children of immigrants can exist somewhere between the love and loyalty of our country of residence (home) and our other home countries. In the UK I think (through my own experience and that of friends) that we tend to have strong connections to our parent’s countries. We identify with them and import elements of their culture into our lives, hybrid cultures, fashion etc. Is that the case in the US?

      • muteiny says:

        It definitely is. I have friends who haven’t even been to their parents’ home countries and they express more feelings of connection and pride to it (like during the Olympics, for example) than they do the U.S. a lot of the time. (I think a lot of that has to do with the after effects of U.S. policies towards people of color.) For me it was a little different because I wasn’t raised by my parent who was an immigrant, but I would still say I was affected by his values and customs, if even indirectly, and I grew up in an area that was full of 1st generation in America kids.

        This was interesting. Thanks for indulging my question. I’m always interested in learning about blacks throughout the Diaspora, and, no offense, but my only exposure to black people in London has been figures like Estelle, Marsha Ambrosius, Benjamin Zephaniah, and Gary Younge. Great examples, but it’s still nice to normalize it a bit more.

      • The Other Me says:

        No problem. Perception is a funny thing. Purely based on a visit to ATL and Florida many years ago and the media I guess, I had this perception that black people in the US were highly patriotic to America and not very connected to their motherlands. Interesting! I thought my cousins were the exception. lol Thanks for the insight.

  2. Great blog! I do believe that writing does force us to look within ourselves. I wish you luck in the future with all of your endeavors. Thanks for stopping by my blog, as well as following it. I look forward to more from you in the future. 🙂

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