Cloud Cult and Identity

Since moving back to the Twin Cities from New York, I’ve noticed in myself an ugly persuasion.  I judge people.  A lot more than I used to.

It’s almost kind of funny, because I sort of judge them according to how “cool” they are — as if I were cool.  That’s the funny part, because I really am not cool.  My requirements for ‘cool’? It’s how genuine people are, how forthright, how comfortable, how un-self-conscious.

So, last night I went to the Cloud Cult show at the Cabooze.  I walked around the show completely in my head. In New York, I tended to not question why people would show up at a show like Cloud Cult. Because duh, everyone in New York is creative and original, right? No need to attend a show in order to demonstrate one’s unique hipster nature.  Obviously this thinking is ridiculous.  People in New York are no “cooler” than people in Minneapolis (what kind of person thinks that, Alison?!).  But in MY head, last night, it sounded like this: people in Minneapolis have an inferiority complex to places like New York/San Francisco/Portland/Chicago/LA. So we have to work harder to prove that we are cool. Which made me think that everyone there was just putting on a show by going to the show:  Why are people here?  What makes people come to a concert like this?   Who is here because they actually want to be? And who is here because they are with someone who wants to be? Who is here only because they want to project a certain image of him or herself? What kinds of images do people intentionally project of themselves? Are people self-aware of how and why they portray themselves in certain ways?

My first show back in Minneapolis, and I ran into four people that I already knew, and I knew of four more people that I know, who were there but I just didn’t see them.  It was a small show.  Too small for a person who has grown to prefer a healthy dose of anonymity!

But this all led me to wonder: How is it that we construct notions of our identity based around the kind of music we listen to, the kind of words we speak, the clothes we wear, the information we know, the events we attend, the education we choose for ourselves? Each decision we make both defines and self-constructs our identities.  How does one separate out where the genuine Self ends and one’s portrayal of his or her Self begins? These are so not new questions. But last night was just such a crucial moment for me to be thinking about them, since I have apparently somehow connected a person’s genuine self-reflection to be related to her or his geographic location.  Is it true, that in a place like New York City one is able to more freely express one’s identity because there is less external pressure to be a certain way, less people who care about how you demonstrate your identity?

I don’t think it’s true, but I’m taking some time to have to un-learn that. One of the dangers of falling into the excitement of moving to a new place is the supposed promises that the location offers. And New York offers a lot of things, many new opportunities.  But.  And yet.  Who am I to judge people?  I know certainly that I myself am not so original and sometimes not so smart, but I like myself.  I know nothing about these people, who they are, where they’ve been, what their story is.  All I know is the front that they present to me, by going to shows such a Cloud Cult and memorizing the words, by dressing a certain way, dancing a certain way, drinking a certain drink.

Sometimes, sometimes, I just feel so paralyzed by having to constantly decide who it is I’m going to be today.  How will I present myself today?

And how will I  judge others today?


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