Rest assured that the actual narrative-based story I promised is on the way. Tomorrow night. Or Tuesday morning. Rushing these things is bad, y’see. Look, stories are hard and I want to talk about me, as a nice break from all the talking about me I do in every other article. Did you know that all writers are secretly riddled with self-doubt and that our writing is nothing more than a ruse to let us talk endlessly and have the world listen? It’s true. We’re not really intellectuals, just terrible narcissists. And I made that up so I could lead into this new series (probably not a series) of articles in which I talk about myself- past, present, probably not future because that seems like projecting an identity onto future Cullen that he might not agree with. Have you ever decided to do something just to prove somebody wrong? Of course. But did you ever do it when there was no way for you to prove that you’d proved them wrong? I have. Did I prove Sylvia Hoehner wrong? Probably not.
About six years ago (possibly seven), I made a joke to Sylvia, my tutor in math and general emotional safety net at the high school I was attending. The details of the joke escape me, aside from the fact that I suggested I might develop a split personality. Frau Hoehner (she was in fact German) pointed out that this was a ridiculous idea. This should’ve been a compliment, since most of my jokes at the time were just creepy and terrifying. Instead, for reasons known only to my 16-year-old self (who, now that he has become me, will openly call himself insane), I decided to take silent issue with it and begin an exhaustive period of mental conditioning, employing a level of diligence that would be really useful if I ever displayed it for things of a certain nature. Can’t think of which nature exactly– ah, that’s it, a useful one!
Since my understanding of a split-personality at the time was molded entirely by pop culture and cartoons, and my critical-thinking abilities were directly on par with those of a chocolate-frosted Berliner, or slightly superior to the German competency of John F. Kennedy. For the record, it was his pronunciation that didn’t work, not the phrase he used. In any case, I decided that to prove I had a split-personality, I would first cultivate the tendency of a questioning voice and an answering voice in my head. Once I had that down, I’d start letting one control my actions at certain times, and the other control them afterwards. Perhaps mercifully for my future employability and the human race (probably not, the voices weren’t so much evil as petulant), I only ever got as far as the first step. But I did succeed, and suddenly I had a habit of two voices, both in second person (and wildly inconsistent in which role they took) in an alternating internal dialogue.
As a side note, I do actually think in words. I’ve met a few other people who do, though most don’t. But I’ve always thought in words, which might explain why I talk so much- if I’m sharing my thoughts with you aloud, then they won’t bounce around my head so much. But let’s be clear, both the voices were just me. They were always just me, but altering my mental word-choice out of pure habit (which I never did in conversation) purely because I found it funny.
This past Spring I started getting a little tired of it, and so I decided to break the habit. Since it had no physical aspect, no locational ties, and no emotional effects one way or the other, this didn’t take much work. As to why I’m telling you this, it’s because, for a brief period of a few months, I did believe that I’d successfully generated an alternate personality. First off, that’s just hilariously silly. But, at the same time, it’s a little frightening, because it demonstrates so clearly how we can convince ourselves of something outlandish, purely to spite someone else. I didn’t even dislike Frau Hoehner (actually, I was very friendly with her), I just felt like being contrarian in the most passive-aggressive way possible. Inside my own brain, where no one can prove me wrong (except myself). In a way, the two-voices gimmick was useful, because as a side-effect of the habit, I started to argue against myself. This is a separate habit that I still have, and I’m cultivating to help me keep some vestige of self-awareness. But the danger here is that I could, if I’m not careful, if I don’t think about what I’m doing, convince myself of something genuinely harmful, as people very often do with the endless barrage of conspiracies, hoaxes and bad science that riddle this country and all the rest.
So I better watch myself- I might break me if I’m not careful.