On a personal note: The things we aren't.

"I am...".

When asked to define ourselves, we tend to start our self-descriptions that way, going over lists and concepts which seem to fit in with the conceptions we have of ourselves. "I am tall, I am thin, I am a hockey player, I am a good kisser".

More than what we are, though, we are defined by all those things which we are not. When we meet one another, so much of what we think of eachother is based on those first 15 or 20 seconds we're given to make a good impression. If we don't, the other person walks away with a skewed vision of who "we are", assigning stereotypes and preconceived notions like tags. They don't care about what we "aren't". And why should they? Well, for one, most of those tags are probably wrong. We aren't lots of things that they might think we are.

This is especially significant if they think you're a pretentious asshole - the importance of proving that you are not a pretentious asshole cannot be understated. Or, at the very least, convincing them of that - assuming, of course, that you're not a pretentious asshole. It's been a while since I really gave much thought to the things I'm not. I can separate my list into two sections; a) The things I'm not that I should strive to be, and b) the things I'm not that I should keep on not being.

Got that? Good.

a) Things I'm not which should be changed:

  • A great chef. I'm a good cook, but I need to work on my attention to detail. I made some lovely Cornish Hen with my Dad for our Christmas dinner - this was probably the most intimidating dish I've ever attempted, and it turned out great. But I'd like to be able to create a much larger number of dishes, instead of the 4 or 5 staples I always fall back on when I need to make a nice dinner. I like the idea of my friends telling their friends what an amazing meal they had at my place. I like hosting friends, and I want them to look forward to the meal that I'll have made for them, since it'll always be something new, original, varied and delicious. I want to pick the perfect wine or beer to complement my dish. Use just the right amount of spices.
  • A good dancer. Or a half-decent dancer. Or a mediocre dancer. Or a dancer who doesn't make a complete ass of himself. Ok, I can manage to look not-too-goofy when some techno, dance or electronica is blaring, but I wish I could take to the floor with a confident smirk when the salsa or merengue hits. And without first pumping enough alcohol into my system to kill a small animal.
  • An effective speaker. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself on this one. I actually have an excellent track record with my training workshops on open source digital media training, and every panel I've spoken on has been very well-received. I feel, however, that most of that is because the source material is always so interesting, I always plan every conference differently based on the audience, and I use lots of presentation tools, without reaching the point where they become crutches or gimmicks. I'm painfully aware, however, that I should work on my speaking skills, especially when dealing with audiences who don't appreciate my continuous use of "Awesome!" or "Right On!"...
  • In great shape. That's right. I said it. I'm not in great shape. I'm in "OK" shape. Daniel Craig is in great shape. Daivari is in great shape. And please, it's got nothing to do with vanity or "looking good", either - it's about being strong. Independent. Able. I can do things myself, without needing to rely on anyone else. I can move shit around my house, lug couches, refrigerators, beds and ovens around by myself. I can bike up Mont Royal at full speed without stopping. I can playfight with my nephews for hours - although I don't quite outlast them. Being able to do all these things makes me feel "more" human, because to me, being human is being able to do everything we dream of, or as much of it. When we start to lose the ability to do these things, whether through bad eating, obesity, smoking or even lack of time, we lose touch with the very essence of what it means to be human. I don't feel like myself sitting here at home in front of the computer - although it's something that I need to do on occasion. I feel like myself after running in the morning. After biking across Cuba. After amazing s... Err, skip that. After coming home from the gym with my best friends and having a great meal together. Of course, the beauty of all this is that you'll never "reach" your goal, because there will always be more that you wish you could do. I'm always going to try to better myself, to make a faster run, to bike down a harder path, to swim faster, to lift heavier weights. It's something that I always feel will be important to me. Even after I have Daniel Craig's body. ;)
  • Confident. It's true, and it's one of my biggest problems. For the first time in a while, I think it got worse this year. I stutter more, I forget important parts of what I'm trying to say, I get clumsy and oafish. Maybe this is related to my speaking mentioned above. I don't even know where to start on this one though; I've always had self-confidence issues.

b) Things I'm not which I should continue not being:

  • An "entrepreneur". Ugh. The "e" word. I never claimed to be an "entrepreneur", or a "Web 2.0 businessman" or whatever, and I'm glad I'm not. The word carries overly negative connotations with me, perhaps, but I can't help of think of some 30-something latte-drinking yuppy mouthing off loudly about all his latest design contracts, or an anti-social nerd in an ironic t-shirt and art-school glasses slaving away at code during some ungodly hour in the hopes of getting noticed by Yahoo or Google. Because that's what it's all come down to now, hasn't it? Make something that Yahoogle buys and cannibalizes. That right there describes the entire business model of my generation of "entrepreneurs". There is no little to no innovation, and where there is, it is quickly assimilated and converted into something nice and shiny for the masses. The other option, of course, is to just keep chugging along on one design contract or development job after another until your life can basically be recreated as a series of short interpretive dances by novice Bulgarian ballerinas. It sucks, it's boring and I refuse to sit through that. The life or the ballet. I've turned down oppurtunities that - at the time, not only in restrospect - would've clearly fetched me huge moneybags. On of the very, very few things that bothers me about Montreal is the huge swath of entrepreneurs - otherwise good people, to be sure - we have hanging out in every trendy cafe, just looking at how they can milk their gimmick to make the most money possible, ethics be damned. "Integrity", anyone?
  • A capitalist. Yes, I'm a product of a society that wholeheartedly embraced capitalism long before I was born. Yes, I owe much of my current lifestyle to what it has made possible. But I was also fortunate enough to recognize very early on that for each person like myself who has benefitted from capitalistic, credit-based economies, there are dozens who have suffered because of it. Capitalism is broken. We've proven that it doesn't work. We're long past the point where we can bring the developing world to the same lifestyle that we've reached. Instead, we're going to have to lower our own standards to make things equal. That means the rich - you and me - will need to adapt. Sacrifice. Give things up. "But I'm not rich!", you say... well, if you're reading this, I imagine you have some access to the internet. If you've got that, it's a safe bet that you've also got a roof over your head and food in your tummy. Those two things along mean you're richer than most other humans, and you better damn well appreciate it. We are my own worst enemy. ;)
    "The security guard came up to me and he says, 'Sorry sir, but you're going to have to move. You're blocking the fire exit'. As if, if there was a fire, that I wasn't going to move. If you are flammable and you have two legs, then you are never blocking a fire exit." - Mitch Hedberg

  • A communist. Surprised? I'm surprised lots of people actually think that I'm a communist until we sit down and talk about it. I'm definitely heavily influenced by socialism and socialist values, but I recognize the need for differentation, open (fair) markets, and regulated competition. In a perfect world, yes, I think communism would be a viable system. Us humans being the finicky, weak, greedy creatures that we are, however, we need to keep looking for something that will try to address as many of our shortcomings as possible while making sure that there is enough accountability to prevent any one entity from controlling a bigger piece of the pie than they should. In that sense, there's a lot to be learned from the successes and failures that both capitalism and communism have had.
  • A smoker. Sorry, but cigarettes are gross. They mess up your body, they smell bad, they cause bad breath. Smoking is not sexy, no matter what Hollywood says. They don't have the coolness factor of cigars, or all the benefits of Marijuana. Yet, they're completely legal and anyone can buy them anywhere. Logic loses again! If I ever become a smoker, you have my official permission to kick me in the nuts, OK?
  • In Love. Ouch. Harsh? Not really. I came close a couple times this year, but everything I seem to come into contact with seems to kinda fall apart after a while, you know? Regardless of the whole question of whether Love itself actually exists or not (although my capitalization of the word should be some indication of where I stand on that issue), it's a phenomenon that requires huge amounts of energy and time to maintain. At least in my experience. In my life, energy and time are at a premium right now. That's not to say I don't love of course; indeed, I think the main reason for doing nearly anything I do is Love.
    At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. - Ernesto Che Guevara

  • Sober. Goodnight. :p

What we aren't can often be much more significant than what we are. What about you? What are some of the things you aren't?

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Thursday, December 28th, 2006
Aaliyah's picture

After amazing whaaaaaaaaaaat ? i didnt get it ..

u dont want to be in love? i think we all crave it ..i have been going on and on about how love is not for me for years now..yes it might be filled with disappointments,,but it does suck a person in ,,sometimes it just forces its way while you try so hard to push it away..or maybe it's just circumstances that forces you to do that..but not wanting to be in love? no it makes me feel human more than anything else i guess...wow....i never even repeated that to myself

about your self confidence,,i simple can NOT will NOT believe it..you're not only the most confident person i met ,, its one of first things i noticed when i first met you (the other was that ur a hunk..anyway) ..so maybe it's all in ur head eh?

 the things im not and wish to be

 -Confident: although i got to admit this has changed well improved ..over the years..in a good way

- A great cook: the things i can cook..hmmm i cant think of anything..would love to just give myself a chance in that area

-A dancer: yeah would loooooove to know how to dance,,and i dont mean the bobbing of ur head and shaking of ur hips hoping you can pull off a beyonce/shakira dance thing..i mean serious belly dancing .*whispers* : i bet you look like a dork dancing..boy oh boy would love to see you dance,,maybe i would need a couple of drinks =p

-A problem solver: i mean you can come to me with ur problems anytime..but when im in a problem,,i go blank,,would love to have the ability to just think clearly when im in deep shit lol

-Life changer: by that i mean changing people's lives to the better,,helping.,..i wish i can do that more and hopefully i will

-A traveller: would like to come to montreal "alone"


Thursday, December 28th, 2006
stevenmansour's picture

Hi Aaliyah,

Maybe you're right - I guess that when you're in the midst of a relationship, love because a much cheaper commodity and you can allow yourself to think about / depend on it more. But I'm far enough away from that right now that it's not something I worry about very much. Of course, all that tends to change very quickly.

Confidence (or a lack thereof) is easily masked by attitude and personality. Some of the most outgoing, dynamic people I've met eventually confessed to me that they had serious (much worse than mine) self-image problems.

You can't think of anything you can cook? Neither can I... :p hehehe.

You're a girl, and you're not white: you can automatically dance. ;) Make you a deal: you can see me dance if I can see you belly dance.

It's a lot easier to deal with other's problems when you're on the outside looking in, than with your own problems. "Taking our own advice..."

You're welcome in Montreal any time!