I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men. I’m nearly done with the second season. The show takes place in the early 1960’s Manhattan, at an advertising firm called Stanley Cooper. It follows an executive there by the name of Don Draper, and the life he leads and the past he fights.
I can’t help but compare myself to characters I watch in my favorite shows. There are qualities in each character I’ve come to love in each favorite series; I love the living-to-die, gung-ho ferocity of Jack Bauer, I love the power of Tony Soprano, I love the intelligence and leadership of President Josiah Bartlet, and I love how Hawkeye Pierce can turn dark days into light and sarcastic humor. Each character has taken a lot of pain, and in rising from it, has developed some sort of unique strength and intrigue that keeps me watching them. Events and life-changing experiences these characters have that you just don’t get to see in this society where everyone shuns their problems away from others.
Don Draper is different. I like him less than most characters I’ve gotten to know, and I’ll even include all the characters in the thousands of books I’ve read over the years as well. On the surface, if I knew the man, I’d consider him just another suit. He’s gritty, he’s tough as nails to be around if you like to be goofy like me, and he cheats on his loving wife with several women that I can hardly stand to watch. Maybe it’s because my own dad couldn’t stay loyal, and thus it’s hard for me to swallow, but at the very least watching unfaithfulness is tough, and hearing about it makes me subconsciously make a fist. Not a character you can see me enjoying, clearly; yet, I’m deeply interested in him and what he does and how he lives.
I realized this is for one main reason, at least the only one I’ve thought of; unlike every other character I’ve come to love, I have a connection to him that I don’t with anyone else I’ve watched or read about. He has no family. He changed his identity, started fresh after coming home from the Korean War, after a childhood and adolescence where he never found his niche or real home. So he remade himself that on one hand is a success, and in another is this mysterious and empty darkness that he probably had to assume when he shut his old life away. After all, you can’t shun the first couple decades of your life completely without either realizing and emptiness, forming an emptiness, or even risking your own emotionality. I do have more family than Don did, but I know that emptiness he feels. The same things that haunt him haunt me as well. The only difference is, I deal with mine by talking about it and making sure I surround myself with great friends and my dream of a girlfriend, and he deals with his by masking himself from everything and fighting his battles alone to the point where no one gets him.
Every emotion is a crossroads; each story is told with each decision made. Sometimes we deal with it by throwing ourselves into the fires of war, or by making our own army to max out our power, or by joking all the way through until a fifth of liquor becomes a truth serum. Either way, when someone you’re close to mistreats you, it brings you to this crossroads where you either uniquely build yourself back up from its frayed ends, or you end up mistreating others and never letting anyone know who you really are. Sometimes the war doesn’t end in your head or your heart until you end the battle for good.
I’ve spent the past few weeks deciding on a topic here. There’s so much that flows through my mind, so many things I’m passionate about and curious about. I’ve wanted to balance that to what my readers may enjoy and want to discuss or think about themselves.
In the end, your best bet in beginning your writing career is to only worry about what interests you, and let your mind form your ideas, arguments and compositions along the way.
I begin my blog with a thought I’ve had in my head for a long time. It’s a very humanistic fault, or strength, or habit – the descriptive word can be among many. It’s something everyone does – it’s something I do to a point – and it causes many results and effects as a reaction.
That is, we all put on a mask, to a point. We all mold ourselves to be accepted and open to a specific point; honest to a specific point; unyielding to relate and give particular information or giveaways about ourselves. Humans aren’t really all that different; our intelligence, comprehensions and social interactions and reactions are a few of the vast differences humans can have with each other – a lot of our differences can be placed into those few categories.
So why a mask? Why don’t we all just accept that we’re the same race, out to persevere, gain a wanted amount of power and enhance our selfish (or unselfish for those we love) ways? I knew I was right when I told myself to just put words down and go with the flow with this blog – this post can easily be broken down into several, and I may do just that.
For the sake of unilateral thought and conversation (I’ll remind you all I’m severely ADD!), I’ll stick to the more social side of this ‘mask’ we all have.
Let’s say you’re at work. Your co-worker is clearly going through something troubling – it could be financial, or work-related, or it could be a heartbreak or bad fight they had with someone. Either way, you have no idea what it is, and it’s upsetting you as well. For argument’s sake, we’ll say you’re not very personal with this co-worker. This co-worker has the ‘mask’ on – one that allows them to still be professional and courteous at work, but you’re the careful observer and you see through the mask to the distress on their facial expressions.
Clearly, the awkward and generally unacceptable thing to do would be to take the co-worker aside for a moment and see what’s wrong, and if you can help. Such a thing could even get the two of you in trouble at work, and your co-worker would likely be even more upset and uncomfortable. Yet all you’re doing is try to help. The common thing to do is to ignore it, even be wary of them, and allow the ‘mask’ to go accepted and to not dare speak of it.
We all want to be consoled in some sense during times like these. We fight it, we have humanistic semi-artificial reactions like pride and false strength to attempt to keep the fight going, but we all want to be okay. We all want to be heard. We all want problems to go away however possible. Yet we only want it from certain people; people who have known us a long time, or who may know the situation, or people who have helped us before. Even if that person closer to you may have weaker or even incorrect advice on how to go about the problem, and this co-worker pulling you aside, for all you know, could be the Conficius in your daily life. 99.9% will never, ever open up to you, unless you’ve passed these unmarked doors to their inner selves and their hearts & minds.
The result, of course, is because we’ve all been hurt in the past, or double-crossed, or anxious to open ourselves up. The ‘mask’ is easier – you isolate the issue to your own head, and you already know your enemies – or at least you think you do. If you don’t take the ‘mask’ off, this co-worker can’t open you up and tear down your little wall somewhat. Better off not risking it, you think to yourself.
I’m not advocating the troubled co-worker open up to their associate, nor keep it in. But we all know this routine, this ‘mask’, that we feel limits the already-existing issue. Despite the fact that we’re all so much more alike than we’d choose to admit. Humans can hurt humans if information is given, and at least if we have the ‘mask’ on, the most we do is hurt ourselves. Which is less severe. Right?