We discussed Michel Foucault today in class, and I was talking about his reduction of the self to a set of data points on a recording grid that completely defines the modern person. And looking at those freshman faces and listening to their protests, I realized that one reason this did not hit home to them as powerfully as it does to me is that they have those huge interior lives. They know viscerally that their selves are so much more than their grades and scores and demographic details. They dwell within the larger-than-life self of thoughts and emotions every day -- within their cannot-be-denied identities that are far more real than any of the passing parade outside their skulls.
But I do not. I can remember what it felt like to be that age, but it's a rare day when I feel an interior self at all. (Mostly under the influence of literature and music.) Now I am all surface. My activity -- and the ways it's measured in productivity and evaluation -- completely exhaust what I am. I no longer feel any dissonance between inside and outside, between how I feel and how I am seen. I don't think big thoughts that no one knows about. I don't feel tidal feelings that no one could possibly understand. Instead, I throw myself fully into what I do. I hold nothing back. I focus all of myself into my actions. It's no less a set of roles for all of that, of course, but they are roles that fit me perfectly, it seems, rather than the awkward, mismatched playacting that characterizes the teenaged years, and contributes to that feeling of vast, untapped depths of self unexpressed in public.
And although I don't miss that romantic, misunderstood, invisible teenage self, I know that many do. That's why they have secret lives, affairs, conspiracies, neuroses. It makes them feel alive. More than that, it makes them feel like they are something more than the sum of their actions. It makes them feel bigger inside than outside.