Rich Wilhelm


In Philosophy/Creativity on September 22, 2014 at 2:55 am
"An Interesting Guy"

“An Interesting Guy”

The organization that has employed me for, lo, these past 24 years is about to launch a new brand for itself. I am not going to describe that rebranding project here-I write enough about work when I am at work-but I did get to thinking today that most of us are in a constant state of personal rebranding.

We rebrand for many different reasons. Sometimes we want to launch that new, improved version of ourselves to land a job. Sometimes we want to impress someone we’ve recently met, and with whom we believe we’d like to spend much more time, or at least the rest of the night.

Important life events-marriage, childbirth, illness, the death of loved ones-all of these things can change us in ways that could certainly be called rebranding, if only on a subconscious level.

Even when we dip our toes in some new form of social media, we make whatever adjustments we need to make to show ourselves off to our best advantage.

Rebranding helps us from becoming emotionally stagnant. If it’s done properly, rebranding is a healthy thing.

Looking over the last five or even ten years of my life, I can see subtle signs of my own rebranding. I have gradually been adding various activities to personal portfolio. I have gotten involved with the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life. I started making notebooks out of record album covers and VHS boxes and selling them to people from my own town of Phoenixville to as far away as Australia. I trained to become a certified volunteer tour guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery, one of a select group of cemeteries to be designated a National Historic Landmark.

I have had many different reasons for engaging myself in relays, notebooks, cemeteries and other things. However, one thread that probably runs through it all is that it all has contributed to my ongoing rebranding. And the mission statement, if you will, behind the rebranding? I want to be thought of as “interesting.” So much so that, when I had personal business cards made, I titled myself “An Interesting Guy.” This was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but I think there was a little bit of “if you build it, they will come” rebranding involved as well.

But here’s the thing I’ve realized about rebranding: you can change yourself outwardly in order to let people know that you exist and are, in fact, interesting, but this personal public relations work doesn’t necessarily change who you are inside. It can facilitate that change, but this is by no means a given outcome of personal rebranding.

This is certainly true in my case. Despite whatever “new and improved” version of me I project through the things I do, I’m still riddled with the same fears, doubts, insecurities and various and sundry shortcomings that I had before I took on the role of “An Interesting Guy.” So, as rebranded as I might feel in certain ways, in other ways, I’m the same guy I’ve been for the last 49 years.

Paradoxically, I find this state of affairs to be both comforting and discomforting. In a way, I like the idea that, whatever changes I’ve gone through, I can still locate my core identity. And doing the things that might contribute to a rebranded me had certainly enhanced my life in myriad ways. On the other hand, it often feels like there is this yawning gap between the exterior “interesting guy” me and the interior middle-aged guy who is dealing with middle-aged stuff. I might get confused at times about where all of this is headed, but this feels like a thoroughly human confusion, and lately, I have found myself to be generally OK with it. Because, no matter how I rebrand myself, I’m always going to be a human.

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

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