Anonymity is overrated…

In his post yesterday to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Jack Freed used thisquote – “What makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.”  (Meryl Streep)

Many people, especially in their teenage years, worry about being different or somehow standing apart from others. Some of our most popular and well-known actors and actresses tell stories about feeling that they were somehow different as children, some even experiencing bullying or other forms of teenage discrimination; yet today they are far more successful than those who mocked them back then. All they sought back then was to blend in, to be part of the crowd, to be anonymous. Many still seek that anonymity today, so that they can function in society without being hounded by fans for autographs or being asked to pose for selfies.

Streep and other actresses have related how they felt different, some even feeling ugly as teens. Julia Roberts, the ultimate Pretty Woman, related in an interview how insecure and different (even ugly)  she felt as a teen. Many actors have related their young struggles with their self-image and their need to fit in better. They too just wanted to be anonymous. Now the people who are anonymous in their movies are the “extras” who make up the background or context for the movie.

Sometimes, being anonymous equates to being lonely. One can just fade into the background of life so much and become so anonymous that no one else bothers to talk to them or relate to them. We see stories on the news from time to time about some person being  found dead in their home months after they had passed away. They were so anonymous that no one missed them when they died. That is taking anonymity too far.

I often relate the story that back when I first moved to Milford, in 1999, I was effectively anonymous. The only people that I knew in the Village were my son and his wife, who had been there for a couple of years. I spent the first 2-3 years in relative anonymity. I could go into any restaurant or business in town and pretty much know that they didn’t know me, nor would anyone else who was there. That changed when I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and became active in its events. I soon became an ambassador in the chamber and started going to all of the events that they ran. Within a year or so, I had met so many other locals that now I cannot walk into any place in the Village without someone saying, “Hi, Norm”.

I must admit that, for me at least, this is a good feeling. Knowing the business owners and the locals who frequent the local restaurants makes one feel like they belong. It’s not like blending into the background or being and “extra”, because you have a speaking role in this movie called life. You get to greet and exchange with the others who have speaking roles in your life.  I recently missed one of the Chamber coffee club events that I normally attend. Later that morning I saw several people who did attend. They all related how people at the event were wondering where I was and what happened to prevent me from being there.  It is gratifying to be missed when I fail to show up for a Chamber event.

So, I have concluded that, while anonymity has some benefits in terms of privacy, it is far outweighed by the friendships and relationships that one builds by not being anonymous. I would much rather have people in the restaurants in town greet me as they often do with “NORM” from the old Cheers TV show, than to be completely anonymous. Anonymity is overrated.

Still, the only autograph that I usually sign in the Village restaurants is on the bill; but, I am available for selfies. I’ll see you around town.

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