“I am not what I think I am; I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am.”
My high school history teacher is responsible for the installation of this quote in my mind. Time and time again, she would prove that human behavior is highly affected by what we think others think of us. And I suppose it's true…
|With Brooke and the Poppies / Photograph by Penny Linford|
As people, we try to live up to the expectations that we think people have for us. Because they laugh at my jokes, I think my friends think I’m funny; so I’m funny around them. Because my mom tells me I’m very smart and creative, naturally, I find that the things I say around her should probably be intelligent and profound. Because strangers compliment my thick-rimmed glasses and long sweaters, perhaps—I hate to admit it—I feel the need to be a little less “main-stream.”
But I think this statement only represents half of the truth. Why would I think that my peers have these sentiments about me if they weren’t really a part of me? Where would they get these impressions if I did not first display those characteristics? No, that doesn’t mean I’m a hipster. However, I think it’s safe to say that without an audience, we are still unique, distinctive human beings; but with an audience, we adapt and amplify those unique qualities.
I’ve had many audiences throughout my life, and each one has left its mark, extracting different parts of my personality, creativity, and character, and helping them rise to the surface.
|Sam and I are expert Disneyland goers|
One such audience is my brother, Sam, who’s been kind enough to be my friend ever since he was four years old (that’s when I graced the world with my presence). Sam and I have gone through every single life stage together, excepting his toddler years, which the poor guy had to tough out without me, and my first two years of high school, when he thought serving an LDS mission in Brazil was more important than witnessing my first attempts at choir solos, Spanish, and flirting (on second thought, I’m glad my audience was slightly smaller for these pivotal years).
But the real reason Sam was a great audience was because he was the only person I really thought I could be myself around for most of my life. I felt no need to be pretentious, no fear of embarrassment. It was just me. And he got to hear all of my profound childhood/tweenhood/teenhood commentary on life. Plus, he’d hear my singing and harp playing, and he’d see my drawings. We’d invent things together, and I’d listen to his theory about time travel. It was a great relationship: he’d build the world, and I’d paint it. I perceived that his expectations for me were to be open, creative, and blithe. So that’s what I was around him.
|Kendra and I never grew out of dressing up|
I also had a very close friend with whom I spent most of my days from the time I was nine to the time she graduated high school, just a year before me. Kendra and I were artistic and imaginative together. We’d make up stories, draw fairies, and obsess just a little bit over The Lord of the Rings. It was easy to tell her my ideas for the novels that I would someday write (I haven’t written one of them, but many still float around in my mind, waiting for my courage to set them free). Not only did she listen to me, but she also had amazing ideas of her own from which I learned. She always thought of the best plot twists and crises, which both impressed me and forced me to think outside the box.
That’s what an audience is. They don’t just watch; they interact with you. They pull out different character traits, which you develop and perfect around them.
|Shelly and me getting dolled up for New Year's Eve|
· Shelly—who brings out my girly side,
· Rosie—who brings out my artsy, coffee shop-conversational side (you can get a taste of her good taste here),
· My roommates—who bring out my social and musical side,
· Brooke—who brings out my mermaid-obsessive side,
· And Carly—who brings out a very raw, honest, quirky side that can only be awakened by a sister.
I have these people, and many more, to thank for the development of my character and the progression of my creative spirit. It is these whose opinions I value most—around whom I am my best self.