The impossible task of talking about myself
Gabrielle Beechert | Friday, September 1, 2023
I had just landed in Chicago after my eight-hour flight from Dublin when I received a dreaded text.
It was Viewpoint Editor Claire Lyons reminding me (again) that it’s time to sign up for Inside Columns. Ugh.
I would like to preface what I am about to say with an important point: This has absolutely nothing to do with Claire. Claire is great! Not only is she an awesome person, but she’s also really good at her job. Major props to her for sending me reminders to sign up for a column even though she probably knew I was intentionally putting it off (and if she didn’t know then, now she does — sorry, Claire!).
This also has nothing to do with the Inside Columns themselves. I love the idea of Inside Columns! It brings me so much joy to open up a paper and read about what my coworkers and friends have on their minds. Christina’s hot or not list? Love! Maggie’s welcome letter to the freshmen? So sweet and so cute! As Editor-in-Chief emeritus Alysa Guffey once tweeted: “Sorry babe can’t talk. New [Ryan Peters] Inside Column just dropped.”
The reason I don’t like writing Inside Columns is entirely my own fault. I think it’s impossible to talk about myself.
To some, this may be a shock. I am a self-diagnosed, chronic oversharer. Last time I was writing an Inside Column, I almost overshared about a time I overshared. Thankfully, I took a step back before submitting my column and realized that I probably don’t want that tale documented in The Observer archives for the rest of time. And thank God I did.
My objection toward Inside Columns has more to do with its vague, qualitative nature. Writing one of these feels like when you first meet someone and he asks you to “describe yourself.” Except this time, it’s 500-800 words that are accessible to anyone with the ability to Google my name. And, of course, the minute someone says “describe yourself” in my general direction, I have suddenly never had a thought, opinion or emotion in my life. I lose all concept of myself.
While in Dublin this past weekend, I was visiting with my good friend Isa Sheikh, who is currently studying abroad. I was chatting with Isa and his friends when his friend John asked me to describe myself in three words. I basically went nonverbal. After an excruciating couple minutes of trying to answer, I resorted to asking for Isa’s help. We eventually landed on the words “nice,” “outgoing” and “Swiftie.”
I’m not going to sit here and deny my identity as a Swiftie, but it’s not a very exciting description. There are probably better ways for me to describe myself, but I simply can’t do it.
When I was in high school, I met with one of my teachers who was writing one of my college recommendations. When we sat down at the table, the first question he asked me was “What makes you interesting?” I think this is a hard question regardless of who is answering, but I couldn’t think of anything. So, I told him I wasn’t that interesting. He laughed and told me he was going to start my recommendation with that part of the conversation. He may have thought it was a bit — and while I do love a good bit — I was being so serious.
I’ve never been good at qualitatively talking about myself, and based on the way things went in Dublin, I never will.
Later in the evening, the question was revisited, but this time with both Isa and News Editor Peter Breen. Rather than talking about ourselves, we went around and described each other in three words. Right after, I told Isa that I thought he was extremely well-spoken, Peter went on to tell me that I was over-spoken. I told him that “talkative” would suffice next time.
I guess this was my really long-winded, over-spoken way of telling you that sometimes, it’s really hard for me to talk about myself. But, I’ve given you a whole column about it, so the irony of this isn’t really lost on me either. Now I can look forward to dreading the next one.
Editor’s note: Gabby is a talented, kind, curious, honest, detail-oriented conversationalist with the ability to make anyone feel welcome. She can say something vastly interesting about nearly any topic — including the topic of talking about herself.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.