Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you. — Tyrion Lannister
Its a quote from the first season of the HBO TV series, Game of Thrones. The “imp” gives this piece of advice to Jon Snow, while sitting around a campfire – both on the way to The Wall. Jon is off to take the black and become a member of the Night’s Watch. Tyrion, is merely an interested tourist – coming for a visit.
This is one of my favorite scenes in the first season, because Tyrion shows a concern for the visible underdog. He points out that one’s perceived weaknesses can become a point of strength – provided you accept that weakness for what it is: a part of you. In a manner of speaking, its a process of claiming all that is yourself, and not allowing it to be turned on you. And its a part of taking control of your own personal narrative or personal sovereignty, if you will.
“Self-ownership (or sovereignty of the individual, individual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity, and be the exclusive controller of her or his own body and life.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-ownership)
Shortly after I left the United States Air Force, I started to hide the fact that I was a Pagan. I never carried books with me to read at lunch-break at work. I never talked about my beliefs with anyone. In short, I started leading a double-life. In “polite” company, I was the everyday human being, never declaring openly for one side or the other. In more “profane” company, I embraced the fact that I am Pagan, but I toned the idea of what I did for a profession. I was openly denying one part of myself, depending on where I was and who I was around. In essence, people got half of me and never knew the other part of who I was.
As James Young wrote in the song “Double Life” by Styx: “Nowhere to hide, though we both might try; I’m schizophrenic, and so am I,” this was precisely where I set myself. I let the fear of others judging me dictate how I presented myself to the world around. And that double life was a fearsome balancing act. Why would I choose to stay and work during the Christmas holiday, but want the period around Halloween off? “I just like to party on Halloween” was the milquetoast answer I would sheepishly pawn off.
Then the so-called “Witch Wars” happened in my local area, and I set myself off and away from the Pagan community. I did my rituals and celebrations alone. I also switched jobs, and decided to grab a hold of my own narrative. People would ask me what my beliefs were. I would respond that I was a “Pagan”. When I got further inquiries, I would state that I wasn’t a Christian, and leave the issue at that. I was tired of hiding who I am from one half of the world. I was tired of living in two different existences.
Taking control of my personal narrative was liberating for me. I no longer had to hide who I am or what I believe. But I was, and still am, very quiet about who I am. I didn’t get the “I am a Pagan” tattoo on my forehead. When I get asked about my job, I tell people I do statistics for a college. I no longer hide who I am or what I do for a living. I’m a Pagan. I’m A Druid. I’m a Polytheist. I work for a small college in North Texas. I do statistics and compile national survey responses. I am an Institutional Researcher. All of that – and a lot more – is who and what I am.
Believe me, I understand living in the shadows. I completely grok the reasons that people must do so. I’m lucky enough to be able to step out into the sunlight. But even if I wasn’t able to do so, and had to still live a life that was somewhat in the lengthening shadows – none of that changes any of my personal narrative. It only changes the audience that I let into the bleachers.