First or Middle?

I’ve had two names most of my life (um, duh?). My family used my middle name as a first name from the earliest moments, which differs from how most of the rest of the world does things. My creators were quite determined to make sure I had a name that couldn’t be shortened or rhymed with anything profane… so there we go with how that got started.

Early on, I began to run into conflict with the real world: schools, doctors, government and myriad other agencies, as they should, called me by my first name. This was a revelation, and required remedy of some form. Initially, I hassled with correcting everyone all the time, which I tired of doing around my teens.

It was at that point I just started answering to either my first or my middle name as though they were of equal concern. Given, the context and location would determine which of the names I would be listening for. This decision to assign environment to name created an unintentional rift of persona that continues (in some form) to this day. I wish to draw attention to this internal rift, because of the transformative significance an unlikely event can trigger.

Drawing the distinction between the first and middle name “personas” will illuminate the nature of my social mechanisms:

The first persona, let’s call him W, is the active societal participant. He works hard, aims high, holds others accountable if needed and rises up from within to take on more and more. He can be an ass, authoritative, demanding, but doing so not out of irrelevance or malfeasance, but to advance something positive. He is bipartisan, but driven to achieve in all avenues offered. He doesn’t joke all that much and burns the midnight oil when needed. He is well-spoken, articulate and very persistent. The sum of all my professional interactions, effectively, along with a dose of that competitive aggressiveness that was necessary as an outer carapace.

The other persona, E, is quite different. He’s a gamer, a stoner, craft beer enthusiast, and a witty adversary with a dagger sharpened by sarcasm. He listens, loves and sings. He is the “play hard” half of the dichotomy, but a much more developed person overall. E has friends, where W has none. E enjoys all sorts of things, going outdoors, experimenting with new activities, enjoying recreation… the list goes on.

W is concerned with having the moral pride of knowing he did his best, tried hard, didn’t quit, persevered and got back to bed time in one piece. These two seem fundamentally divided in several ways, but each serving a purpose in the mechanism I developed to survive in the real world.

Albeit, having the dichotomy within is not a good thing, and it did have a big part to play in my last relapse. However, something interesting happened when I moved up here from SD. The rubble of W looked like it was headed for a long rebuilding process after the destructive downfall, but, an unknown confusion led to a dramatic and unexpected change of world view.

I needed to start volunteering, so I reached out to the NAMI affiliate and bugged them to let me help. Once I got in with NAMI, the Executive Director and exchanged a few emails and agreed to meet for a table event on Sacramento City College’s campus. When I reached out to shake his hand, he addressed E, not W. I was very much expecting W to be the go-to guy here in the professional role, but instead, E walked in and took a seat at the helm. It was a moment that I found no immediate significance in at the time, but looking back over the last 6 months, I can see something remarkable has been happening.

It is clear to me that E is in W’s role for good, emulating W’s attributes as the innovator, the outward facing customer support geared guy, the do-gooder, go-getter. He still takes on responsibility, and comes through consistently, is punctual, determined and always looking to advance the cause forward. Yet, there is something outwardly-radiating that is not like W at all, but quite distinctively E. The playful banter with coworkers, sharp wit, steely sarcasm and ample laughter are all a part of regular business with this bunch. There are quips, smackdowns and mic drops everywhere, and this is the playground of E for certain. E is fun, and peculiar, and bizarre at times, but quite distinctive as part of the core of the person behind the persona.

Perspective helps me see E unpacking slowly, probing, validating, becoming familiar, but still with many things withdrawn in security as W would to protect himself. There has been an amalgamation of the two worlds I had created long ago, and the blending of them has contributed to the current healthy time in my life. Maybe there are more ways that the personas will draw themselves apart, as circumstances change, but really, having E take the lead has been the greatest oddity of my entire transition up here. I am very, very glad I decided to me E and not W with this crew, because I’ve never been happier to do something for someone.

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