You’re Not The Energy Guy

2012 February 2

I’m not going to name names. I was reading someone’s something the other day and I realized how very much this something sounded like all of their other somethings. Call it a beat, a niche, an area of expertise, I just called it tired. It’s the same old saws, the topic spun and respun in a new way, the perspective that might have raised an eyebrow the first time you read it, but after the 53rd? Not so much. It reminded me of my flirtation with getting a PhD. I remember one of my classmates turning to me with genuine panic in his eyes and in his voice. I don’t want to be the energy guy. I’m going to do this thesis and then I’ll be the energy guy forever. That will be my thing.” I left the program shortly after that, but I’ve always wondered if he did indeed go on to become the energy guy.

I don’t want to be the energy guy, either. Just like I didn’t want to be the Gen Y girl, just like I don’t introduce myself first and foremost as a vegan or a feminist or someone who can’t eat gluten. These are facts, not representative of my identity as a whole. I thought about this again last night when I got into the latest of half a dozen discussions-slash-arguments with a certain someone about how I hated being penned in or reduced or summed up by a handful of one-dimensional descriptors.

I don’t do personality shorthand.

Who says that there has to be one thing at which you specialize or that you have to filter the world through only one lens? That you always have to be wearing your Virgo/youngest child/introvert/diabetic label or clinging to it like an security blanket? Who says that you’re doomed to only ever write about your own lived experiences or to pursue only jobs that align with your college major or that you can never admit to enjoying the smell of steak on the grill because you swore off animal products?

Labels are for medicine bottles and lenses are for eyeglasses. By contrast, people are messy and contradictory and infuriating and complicated. You’re more than the sum of your parts, more than whatever box you’ve been dropped into or voluntarily crawled inside. And to keep going back to the same well, telling the same stories to and about yourself and believing that a bullet list of nouns passes for your essence sells yourself much too short.

You are not the energy guy and you shouldn’t aspire to be.

 

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