Casual Life Lessons: On Owning Self

I’m a pretty casual person.  I really think that this is the best way to describe my approach to life and its various facets. Of course, there are other terms I would place on my body: passionate, loyal, and generous. But casual is probably my favorite (and I secretly love that its contradictory to some of my other “traits.”)


I suppose I could use another term. “Spontaneous”, for instance or “blithe.” But, I much prefer the term “casual.” I like the way that it rolls off the tongue. I like that it conjures images of cotton tees and sweats. I definitely enjoy the way that it makes some people in my life, people that I intensely admire and look up to in multiple ways, balk and eye me disapprovingly uneasily.


You see, in my day-to-day realities; in the world that I have chosen to be a part of, to be casual is to be seen as the opposite of serious. “Seriousness” is right up there with platinum and gold. It’s almost as good as “professional.”


But when I tried to internalize this seeming distaste for casualness that surrounded me in my daily life, what I was left with was anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. Where, before, I would juggle multiple projects from the scholarly to the whimsical, I was now wracked with the trepidation that my choices, whatever they might be, would be seen as antithetical to being a “serious” scholar-in-training, frivolous and therefore, meaningless.


Wait, you want me to participate in a web-series? Preposterous. A music video? No can do.


This year I resolved to own my nature and allow it to breathe.  I am casual as in relaxed. Casual as in unconcerned. Unconcerned as in trusting that it-will-all-work-out-eventually, NOT as in apathetic. It’s a little bit of my grandmother’s unwavering faith mixed  with my afro-futurist leanings towards the utopic.


And, I realized that I was participating in self-censorship that made no sense and was causing me undue pain—all for the sake of perpetuating the façade of seriousness. My work was suffering because I was constantly in a spiral of self-doubt and I was becoming stagnant. And really, did my betters really think that participating in extra-curricular activities made me a bad student? Probably not. It was time to own self.


Casualness does, however, have its pitfalls. And, they don’t have anything to do with not being “taken seriously. “ Oftentimes, people take me too seriously as is. The pitfall has to do with the boundaries of casual-ity (a made-up word that I’m going to use). Especially when it comes to my ideas, my thoughts, my work. I believe that my casual nature has allowed others to mistake that a comment, a remark, an IDEA that I have shared (usually in confidence) is game because well, I’m casual.  People take from those that are seen as too permissive, and much is given to those who have cultivated a convincing air of gravity—they are always already perceived as the rightful generator (and owner) of a good thing.


Squeaky Wheel has been in the works, for what, nearly 2 years? It hasn’t been always called that. I believe it was Melissa that, in conversation, made the determination that this would a good name. But, nonetheless, I have been thinking about a space where I could talk about my own *ish in relationship to my life *ish  and scholar *ish for a long long time.  Where these various things could be understood as co-constitutive and not tangential, relevant.


But, I’ve been too casual about it. The goal is to be causal but not overly so.


This is my way of introducing myself to you. Welcome to Squeaky Wheel.


Song on my mind: “Me” by Erykah Badu




MMP aka Mickey P. aka My Government Name 


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