Still Faking It
July 5, 2011 § 8 Comments
So Jenna went and blew up my blog with a 20-fold increase in hits (which lasted about a day-and-a-half; ya’ll come back now, hear?) by posting a teaser of my little missive Faking It. And I thank her for that.
But I’m equally thankful for the lode of thoughtful comments relating to the post. Which is in large part what’s compelling me to revisit the issue now.
As some of you may remember, Faking It was a reflection on how we, as a culture, define a “real farmer.” In short, I was struck by a short conversation I’d had with a dairy farming neighbor, and by how it seems as if our cultural definition of “farmer” (or at least the “real” variety) has at least as much to do with money, as it does the production of food.
I do not know if I do or should qualify for real farmer status or not. In my neighbor’s eyes, I don’t and probably never will. There was a time in my life, and not so long ago, that I might have felt compelled to defend the title, to prove that just because we do not earn the bulk of our living via agricultural pursuits, we are indeed real farmers. Frankly, I no longer care.
This is not capitulation. Nor is it apathy. Rather, it’s the realization that my life has unfolded in such varied and unexpected ways that I’m not comfortable defining myself by a single pursuit. Yes, I am a farmer, or at least partly so. But I am also a writer, a father, a husband, a son, and a brother. I am a bad guitar player and a lover of music. I’m a friend, or at least I try to be. I am not any one of these things; rather, they are all me. Human parts of a human sum, with each part playing a lesser or greater role depending on season, mood, and general circumstances.
It is true that I do not believe money should have much to do with how we define ourselves, to the extent we seek to do so. I write for money; does that make me any more of a writer than those who do not earn their living via the written word? I think not. Indeed, I believe it’s entirely possible that someone who has the discipline and drive to write in the absence of monetary remuneration is more a writer than am I, for what could be more real than being gripped by something so firmly and deeply that you do it without expectation of repayment? When we strip away the extraneous – the recognition, the money, the ego that is fed by each – that’s when we get real.
I am approaching my 40th birthday. I’d like to think that such milestones do not matter to me, and that I am above concerns such as worrying that my life is probably half over. But lately, I feel vulnerable to this knowledge. It lurks in the back of my mind as a reminder that no matter how others define me – hell, how I define myself – the only “real” thing about me is that I am human, with all the weaknesses and mortality that implies.
To be sure, the rest of it – the farming, the family, the writing, the fanaticism for early Rush – is more than mere window dressing. But none of it matters because I’ve laid claim to it. Rather, I think it is entirely the opposite: It matters because it’s laid claim to me.