I’m a pretty private person. People who know me might be aware of this, but I don’t think they have a clue just how private I am. You could say I’m “guarded,” and you could even mistake me for being “anti-social” at times. But I don’t really care what you call it—I just prefer to live most of my life without explaining everything I do to everybody I know. I think I’ve recently been able to determine that there are two main reasons for why I’m so private.
First, I think part of why I’m so private is because I like to try things, and I don’t want people to judge my performance if I’m not prepared to be judged. For example, I took fencing classes last year. It was great fun. I’ve finally learned what on earth “en garde” actually means, and I know how to lunge, riposte, and properly hold a foil. This is all great. But I don’t tell people that “I’m into fencing” because… I’m not, really. I was just trying it. And it seems to me that people can’t understand this concept. So I don’t want anyone to grill me on my knowledge, or watch me perform, or judge how good I am, because I’m just dabbling in it. That’s what I do. I dabble in things. And if someone watches my performance in fencing, they’ll see that I’m not very good. But they won’t know that it’s because I don’t intend to be good. I’m just having fun. But most people don’t understand that.
Second, I think the other reason I’m so private is because I don’t like being questioned or challenged about things. Great example: people ask me what I do for a living, and I say “I’m a web and marketing guy,” and I like to leave it at that. But sometimes, people push and say “so what do you actually do when you’re at work?” and I can try to explain what I do on a daily basis, but I resent feeling like I need to justify what I do for a living as though you’re questioning the value of my job. I really hate that. If I tell someone “I run the website for my company,” they’ll often say something like “That’s it? That’s not a full time job though, is it? What else do you do?” and my claws start coming out of their sheaths. I despise having to justify what I do for people who simply don’t understand, and that’s a majority of people I talk to.
I was talking to a fellow singer I know a few years ago, and he told me “I hate telling people I sing. Actually, I try hard to hide the fact that I sing.” I knew the answer (since I’m the same way), but I asked him why anyway. He said “Because as soon as people find out I sing, they’ll say ‘Hey, I didn’t know you could sing! Hey, everybody, did you know Glen can sing? Sing something for us Glen!'” That has stuck with me throughout the years, and I don’t think I can do a better job of describing the irritation I feel in this situation. The assumption is that if you were any good at something, you would have told people.
Our society wants to label everyone, and people want to be able to label—or pigeonhole—other people as fast as they can, so they can determine whether a person is worth getting to know or not. “Oh that guy? He’s a jock.” “This gal is a drama queen.” “This guy is a computer nerd.”
I resent these labels. And I defy them. I do a lot of things. I play the trumpet, piano, tuba, guitar, and I sing. I can swim, wrestle, run, canoe, fence, SCUBA dive, do gymnastics, and more. I write. I speak publicly. I read. I’m a husband, father, son, nephew, brother, grandson, friend, employee, and consultant. I’m a business man and a family man. I’ve been a construction laborer, janitor, bus boy, waiter, marketing manager, ranch hand, web designer/developer, Internet marketer, and more. I don’t like your labels, and I don’t want you to judge me based on what I do or don’t do (or, more importantly, what you think I do or don’t do).
If you see (or hear) me singing on a stage someday, I hope you enjoy what you hear. I really, truly do. But don’t come up to me afterwards and say “I didn’t know you could sing!” …because you only would have known that if I’d told you. And I won’t tell you until I am ready to tell you. Not before. Odds are, I won’t tell you at all and you’ll just be pleasantly surprised when you hear me. Or that’s my hope anyway.