I was recently searching for eponymous urls at godaddy.com. As one does. I was not surprised to discover that JessePearson.com was “already taken!” I searched a few other domain variants; jesse-pearson.com, jpearson.com, jwpearson.com. (I wanted something that ended in .com because I am old and frightened of newness and change.) I settled on jessewpearson.com. The “w” stands for Bill, which stands for William. I was satisfied with this result. I like to publish under my full name anyway. I think it sounds more writerly or, at least, more publish-y.
I spent a few minutes contemplating how many years I wanted to own this piece of virtual real estate. (I settled on three and saved a couple bucks. I could have saved more if I’d gone for five, but I’ve joined 24-Hour Fitness one too many times to fall for that trick again). Then I began to wonder. Who is the other Jesse Pearson? Do people find him when they are looking for me? And what do they find?
A few Google-moments later I made a shocking discovery. I am, in fact, not Jesse Pearson. Someone else is Jesse Pearson. And he is living my life.
Jesse Pearson is my age. He even kind of looks like me; the Jewish face to go with the gentile name.
The realization that you are not who you think you are can be jarring. But the awareness that someone else is is downright disturbing.
According to his website, Jesse Pearson, “is a writer, editor, and curator. He was the editor-in-chief of Vice magazine from October of 2002 until December of 2010, when he quit. Before that, he received unemployment benefits from the State of New York. Before both of those things, he was an editor at index magazine. Jesse is now the proud editor and founder of Apology, a quarterly magazine of culture and literature.”
What a clever bio! So clever, in fact, that with a single click, it can also be read in the first person or the self-addressed second person.
Then I found a New York Times article about Jesse Pearson and his new magazine venture. What an interesting and talented person! Sure, he has a whiff of douchey, Parliament-smoking, Brooklyn hipster about him, but hey, that could have happened to me if I hadn’t left Boerum Hill in 1999. And, if he’s to be believed, he knows this about himself and he’s trying to make amends.
And who wouldn’t have a five-day stubble of self-regard if he’d been published in GQ and Playboy, and interviewed David Lynch, David Simon, Elmore Leonard, Harold Bloom, and Michael Pollan, just to name a few?
I believe it’s fairly normal to want to wake up one morning and discover that you are someone else. Not permanently. Just for a day or two. We all get bored with ourselves. But it is strangely disruptive to find that that someone else is you, nominally speaking.
The desire to live another life is not an indictment of the life I'm living. The longing for a new self is not a threat to the people – parents, partners, children, and friends – who love my current self. Everyone who knows me knows that if I could snap my fingers and become a successful writer, editor, and publisher, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m not sure what I would give to be Jesse Pearson instead of Jesse Pearson, but I’m pretty sure I’d give something.
But I did get to wondering. What is Jesse Pearson’s finger-snapping wish? Maybe he’s always wanted to try living on the West Coast. Maybe he’s sick of his cramped Manhattan apartment, of never seeing swaths of green or warm weather in January. Perhaps he’s tired of the insufferable sensitivity of the creative class, the relentless intellectual one-upmanship of writers and artists who, whether aspiring or established, always seem to be masking self-doubt with something-to-prove. Maybe he wishes he had two kids, not babies, mind you, because dirty diapers and sleepless nights are for suckers, but a six-year-old and a nine-year-old with wild imaginations, irrational fears, and blind optimism. He might even contemplate earning a living as something other than a writer. The relentless grind, the pressure to produce, the income unworthy of the effort. No, he could never be strapped to desk, but what if he could make good money doing something else and just write because he loves to write, for the pure, original joy of the art form? God, wouldn’t that be refreshing?
Maybe he regrets his tattoos.
And then I got to wondering some more. Would I trade? If I could be Jesse Pearson instead of Jesse Pearson, would I do it? Would he? Can I take anything with me – my wife, maybe, or my dog – or is this an all or nothing proposition? Can Jesse throw a baseball as well as I can? I’d hate to give that up. What if Jesse is a swimming pool guy instead of an ocean guy? Man, that would suck. I wouldn’t mind being able to smoke cigarettes, but dear God, what if Jesse is a vegetarian?
Jesse Pearson may be living the life I want, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up the one I have.
There are four days left in 2013. Another year is almost over and I am still Jesse Pearson. It is easy to be unproud of myself, the lack of goals reached or dreams fulfilled; even easier now that I know there’s another Jesse Pearson who is living the life I thought I’d be living. Maybe I’ll write Jesse a letter and ask him if he wants to trade. Just for a couple days or maybe even a week. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he wrote back. He’s a creative guy, after all. Let’s do it! he’d probably say. Let’s be each other for a little while. But I bet when push comes to shove, we’ll stick with what we have. And it’s probably for the best.
I suppose I’ll just resolve to be a little bit more Jesse Pearson next year.