Zero To Hero Day 16: The Reputation Spectrum

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about reputation. The funny thing about reputation is how wildly it differs depending on who’s perceiving it. It’s a matter of an individual’s background or beliefs; we judge each other based upon our own expectations. A reputation is just an impression of only a part of someone’s personality; it’s like assuming a person’s whole identity based solely on their musical or literary tastes. Or their sign and Myers-Briggs type, for that matter; I’m an INTJ Scorpio, but such classifications have limited relevancy. Human beings are more complex than that, and everyone needs to be mindful of not cramming each other – and themselves – into little, stereotypical boxes.

If everyone I knew were to attend my funeral, no one would be able to agree on the exact way I’d be remembered. My reputation spans a whole spectrum of social expectations. Everyone would I agree that I’m intelligent, with a knack for observation and planning. Weird and quiet, too. But beyond that? It’s up in the air. Part of my family would disgustedly declare that I was decidedly unmanly, just because I don’t conform to their idea masculinity. They’d say my love of literature, humanities, and style was…interesting, but they couldn’t fathom why I’d rather be alone instead of going shooting, getting drunk, or watching sports for hours. Another part of my family would argue that I was an ungrateful, blasphemous rebel who left everything behind. They’d say I was just a distant, morose shadow who blatantly disregarded the rules, asked too many questions, and should’ve gone to church more. Other family members would claim that I was kind and thoughtful for keeping the house running, helping them when they were sick, and making them laugh when they needed it most. A few might even whisper about my fiery temper in hushed tones.

My coworkers and classmates would say that I was efficient, responsible, and withdrawn. Maybe a little insane. They’d all talk about how I’d traveled the world, and actually camped under the stars the old fashioned way. That I’d always somehow grab everyone’s attention despite being so shy. There would be anecdotes about how I seemed always able to explain something in simple terms. That I wrote papers and solved puzzles with reckless abandon. And switch from serious to snarky at the drop of a hat. They’d say I was crazy for not owning a smart phone, but admit bringing homemade lunches every day was clever and healthy. The higher-ups would say I was either a great mentor, a good sounding board, a vicious debater, arrogant, sarcastic, frightening, or intimidating. That I preferred stating awful truths instead of pretending. That I refused to play politics, for better and worse. Some would concur that I was a total charmer, despite my protests otherwise. They’d say I had warm, boundless energy and a knack for making people smile.

Certain circles in gaming community would say that I was an awesome reviewer with high writing standards. There would be tales of enigmatic emails featuring advice on critical writing and video game history. They’d mention how I’d always lurk somewhere in the background, surprise everyone with a new article, and vanish again. Some of the old timers would reminisce how I worked my way up from a crappy newbie. Anyone I’ve played against online would accuse me of being a flagrant trickster and a completely off-the-rails strategist. They’d moan about how I didn’t take anything seriously, yet somehow managed to beat them on several occasions. Very few could claim they ever spoke to me personally.

See what I mean? Reputation isn’t set in stone; it’s based upon others’ perceptions of you. A single person could have dozens of stories levied against them. The real danger is when you start buying too much into the expectations; if you focus too much on how you should act, you end up losing sight of your real personality. Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraphs has a bit of truth to them, but they’re ultimately inaccurate. They’re just like jigsaw puzzle: small pieces of a larger whole. I’m not sure what I kind of reputation I’m developing on WordPress, but I hope it’s a good one.

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Being The Weird One

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being an outsider. This one’s such an omnipresent theme in my life (and probably in everyone’s in some respects), it’s harder to pinpoint parts where I’m not an outsider. You know how every family has that one strange relative? The one you always shake your head at and tell stories about during holiday dinners? Yeah, that’s me. I’m the weird one. On both sides. On one side, I’m the second oldest in my generation, and the only one with a university degree and who reads, writes, and studies regularly. On the other, I’m one of the older, quieter kids with an apparently rebellious, anti-religious streak. Never mind all that fancy know-how about science and the arts; why don’t I do all the stuff normal guys do? Family gatherings and birthday parties are ripe for awkward questions and confused stares. Conversations typically include gems like:

  • Sooo…do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Any romance whatsoever? No?…Oh.
  • Uh, are you gay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • When are you going to get married and have kids?
  • You still go to church…right?
  • Did you see what so-and-so posted on Facebook?!
  • Ugh, you still have that long hair? I’m gonna cut it while you sleep!
  • Whatcha reading? …Oh, never heard of that. I loved Twilight, though!
  • Still doing that writing thing, eh?
  • See any good movies lately?…Who the Hell is Hayao Miyazaki?
  • Traveling again, huh? I…um, went to Las Vegas recently.
  • You still play video games?
  • You don’t watch football?! Uh, what sports do you watch?
  • Whatcha doing here in this room all by yourself? It’s too quiet! Don’t you want to chat with everyone?
  • What do you mean, you don’t drink alcohol?!
  • Hey, I can’t figure out this puzzle! Let’s see YOU do it!…showoff...
  • Oh…hi, cousin! Didn’t know you were here! I’ll be, uh, over there with everyone else. Bye!

Yeah, it’s so much fun being the weird one.

I think it has a lot to do with the way us kids are grouped together. Both sides of my family have always had their own little cliques based on siblings, proximity, age, and petty drama. I’m older than most of them, and I live pretty far away. I’m also the lone one raised as an only child, which means I didn’t get the benefits of sibling interaction or anything like that. Many of them attended the same schools and made the same friends – they’ve literally had the identical groomsmen and bridesmaids for their weddings – so they’ve already had years to build strong foundations. As for me, I’m the quiet loner from out of town that shows up maybe once or twice a year. Since I’m the clever and artsy one, I’m apparently too strange for normal interaction. At least some of the kids think I’m cool.

It’s not limited to just family, either. There are people at church who won’t even look me in the eye. I’ve been nearly excommunicated a couple of times. I could regale you with dozens of stories about being the “strange” one at the office. Apparently, bringing my homemade lunch is absurd when I can spend dozens of dollars per week on local fast food. And that there’s something inherently wrong with not owning a smart phone and checking its messages every free second. And that not going out for drinks on Friday nights is a sign of mental instability. Someone incredulously asked what planet I was from. It was very surreal being the only one on the staff who bothered to read books, news, and anything at all. I once had to explain to a college-aged worker that yes, Germany is, in fact, a country.

No, seriously. That conversation happened.

I wish I was exaggerating. I really do. Maybe I really am just too weird for people to accept. I know that I’m part of the problem, too. I’m shy and introverted, so it’s not like I’m going out of my way to talk to people. I should probably cultivate more mainstream interests. It’s just that I’m so much more used to doing and experiencing things alone. It’s not about superiority or anything like that. I just have different interests. And I usually enjoy being the mysterious loner…until the awkwardness sets in. I guess I should keep looking. Maybe I just haven’t found the right place yet.