Who am I?

Stumbled across Gretchen Rubin’s blog for her book-in-progress, The Happiness ProjectLast Wednesday’s post  mused about the difficulty of knowing what you are really like (and what you really like):

In doing the Happiness Project, I’ve been repeatedly struck by how hard it is to “Be Gretchen.” It’s oddly difficult even to appreciate my own interests. I have to remind myself of one of my most important Secrets of Adulthood: just because something is fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me – and vice versa.

True.  This is one of the insights that the Myers-Briggs-type personality-index quizzes offered me: that people really are different and process experience in surprisingly different ways.  That if a hundred people are having fun at a party, and I am not having fun, their experience of fun is no less true for them than my experience of misery is for me.

Rubin posted a quiz adapted from the book The Creative Lawyer, by Michael Melcher.  The idea is to do a better job of knowing who you really are and what you are really like (all in the pursuit, I am sure, of a more authentic life).  Here are the questions and my answers.

1. What part of the newspaper do you read first? I read the first section, national and world news, followed by local news, followed by arts and entertainment, which is my favorite section (but I don’t feel I have earned it until I’ve read the other sections).  I read the comics last because they are my favorite part of the a & e section.  If I have time to fill (say I’m on a train), I then read sports and business.

2. What are three books you’ve read in the past year?  Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind; Lionel Shriver, The Post-Birthday World; Daisy Fried, My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again.

3. As a child, what did you do in your free time?  Mostly I read.  I also wrote stories and poems on a series of old manual typewriters, and later on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter and a Brother electronic typewriter.

4. What’s a goal that has been on your list for a few years?  Finish my dissertation.

5. What do you actually do with your free time?  Read and write things unrelated to my dissertation and spend time with family.

6. What types of activities energize you? Taking a walk; having a good writing session; a good talk with a friend.

7. What famous people intrigue you?  Writers no longer intrigue me particularly, though certainly some of the most intriguing people I know also happen to be writers, whether famous or not.  I’m fascinated by people who are deeply involved in worlds that I respect but that are alien to me; I remember going to the U.S. Open Chess Championship one year when a friend was playing, and being enthralled by the atmosphere of it–but I’m not intrigued by any particular chess player. 

I suppose I would have to say that the famous people who intrigue me the most are musicians.  But I suspect that if one met them and talked to them, most of them would, like most writers, be significantly less intriguing than their work.  And probably less articulate than the average writer. 

I’m sort of intrigued by Alice Cooper; although he’s not one of my favorite musicians, he just seems to be able to embody a number of contradictory impulses and still be a more or less integrated personality (he’s a pretty good songwriter and a kind of crazy performance artist with the eyeliner, the snakes, etc.; a born-again Christian who doesn’t proselytize; husband to the same woman for over 30 years; a golfer with a 5 handicap; and so on).  And if you have ever seen the episode of the Muppet Show he guest-starred on, or the movie Wayne’s World, I probably don’t even have to explain.  In a weird way, I find Yo-Yo Ma intriguing for the same sorts of reasons.  (According to Wikipedia, both of these guys are older than I would have guessed: Cooper is 59, and Ma almost 52.)

Would anyone else like to answer these questions?  Please do!


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