ANSWERING THE PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE

Comprised of thirty-five questions, answering the Proust Questionnaire is said to reveal a person’s character—their morals and ethics, their goals and dreams, their wants and their fears. Popularized by Marcel Proust and later used in interviews for magazine profiles, the Proust Questionnaire essentially is nothing more than a personality test. Here I try to answer some of them.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Growing up as a child from a poor background, I used to think that having money—and not just “enough” but a lot of it—is a surefire way to happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I did not have a miserable childhood. In fact, I had a happy childhood. But the saddest moments of my childhood, in one form or another, involved my family’s financial inability to give me the things I often needed and sometimes wanted, things I would see my classmates have effortlessly and in abundance, things the television programs I was watching were made to appear to be given in other people’s lives. Now that I am an adult I realize that the platitudes they say about money not guaranteeing happiness, like most platitudes, are true. I do not mean to suggest that I have a lot of money now, which is not at all the case; and I am not one to turn down a good splurge if I am given the funds to do so, but in retrospect, the happiest moments of my life have involved very little to no money.

What is your greatest fear?

I have a massive fear of falling from high places, which strikes me strange because I’ve always admired views from high places. Rooftops, mountain tops, plane windows, television towers—I love them all. 

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 

When I want something, I want it now, in this very moment. Delayed gratification is something I have never been able to successfully learn, much less appreciate; that isn’t to say I’ve given up on the endeavor. I do realize that impatience is such an unattractive and immature trait and I’m not really that keen on keeping it unchecked.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Unkindness. This is very interesting because the traits we deplore in others are mere reflections of the traits we have ourselves. Now, I’m not saying that I am unkind on purpose, but I can be when pushed or triggered. I strive to be the best version of myself every moment of every day, but I also have the capacity to be cruel and vicious.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Food has recently become an extravagance in my daily life; I often find myself buying food in excess, a funny thing since I do not eat that much and I have always been thin. I suppose I just find deep pleasure in good food.

What is your current state of mind?

The fact that I cannot with any real certainty answer this question accurately, I suppose, is answer enough. I wish I could report that I am doing well, that things are under control, and that I am thriving, but such isn’t the case—although that is still the state I am thriving to manifest. Some days are better, some are not, but then again that is what life has always been, and I don’t harbor any delusions that it is different and much harder for me than for the rest of the world. At the moment I am just trying to take things day by day, moment by moment, because sometimes that is all you can do, really. I’m trying to improve my posture, work on cultivating good habits and healthy coping mechanisms. But most of all I am trying to remain hopeful, that one day things will turn for the better, and when that day comes I will be ready to receive it.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Honesty, I think, is given more moral weight than it deserves. There are instances in which honesty serves more pain than closure, more trouble than relief and comfort. Often, people use it as a self-serving device; this is the worst kind. There are instances in which honesty is not necessarily the best policy. Of course I’m not suggesting that you do not tell the truth. You should always be truthful. But just because you can be honest does not necessarily mean you should be. Ask yourself why you want to tell the truth, and if your reason revolves primarily around you and how you feel and not the person you want to be honest with, I think you need to reconsider.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I used to be at outs with my physical appearance. It’s taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I am beautiful in my own way, that I deserve to take up space on this earth simply because I am here, that I am breathing and existing and in my own way trying to make the world a better place, and not because I do not fit some enigmatic ideal about how I should look like. Does seeing the person reflected on the mirror fill my heart with warmth? Not everyday, and not every time. Does it make me want to hurl the mirror across the room? Not anymore. That’s the thing about self-love; it’s a journey. Some roads are smooth, some paths are rough, but it is always worth the ride.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Vulnerability in a man, to me, is such a beautiful thing to behold. More than bravery and courage and guts, vulnerability is the one quality that is imperative for a man not only to have but to cherish. Because vulnerability requires bravery and courage and guts, and without inherent vulnerability at one’s core, every other virtue is just a veneer that will fall off sooner rather than or later.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Resilience. I am fortunate enough to know some great women in my life, and the common denominator that they all have is their unwavering resilience—a virtue I’m striving to cultivate within myself but do not yet possess. Being a woman is hard enough, but their conscious effort to keep getting up after every setback, which in many ways is inherently engineered against them, is something I’ve always found admirable.

When and where were you happiest?

This realization struck me when I became aware of it because the image that I always held of myself was so unlike it, but what makes me the happiest is when I find myself outside surrounded by the grandness and grandeur of nature. I was in a state of bliss when I climbed up the rocky facade of the Täschalp to behold the Matterhorn. A rush of calm contentment washed over me as I soaked in the snowy Fjords of coastal Norway. I found solace in the open road that time I went on a road trip with the boy I was then dating. Seeing the Northern Lights dance. Swimming in the clear, warm, ice blue waters of Lac D’ Aiguebelette. Standing on top of Col du Grand Colombier. Waking up on a hill in Chamoson and looking down on the beauty of the valley. Driving down the Montvalezan whilst being engulfed in mountain clouds. Looking up at the clear, bedazzled night sky by the lakeside. These are my most treasured moments, and some of my happiest. I suppose my feeling extremely and literally small in these moments have something to do with it; to be confronted with one’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe is a liberating experience, and one that is deeply comforting.

Which talent would you most like to have? 

I always wanted to be a musical prodigy. My earliest memories as a child was watching this amazing woman in church take command of the piano during praise and worship at Sunday service. The image of her sitting there, her hands fluttering across the porcelain keys, her feet rhythmically stepping on the pedals, has left a deep impression on my young mind. To this day I am envious of people who can play instruments well.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Had I encountered this question some years back, I would have given a vastly different response. However, as cheesy as it may sound, I do not wish to change one thing about myself. Sure, there are things I want to improve on, but to change something fundamentally about myself is a thought I do not particularly care to dwell upon. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

I would like to preface this response by saying that in my life I have had many achievements, and I consider them equally of great value. That being said, my being able to attend Hopkins stands out to me for no other reason that it is so real and so quantitative that there can be no doubt as to its objective value.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? 

It would be of interest to me to be reincarnated as one of those big, majestic birds. The strength and freedom with which they command the skies appeal to me greatly.

Where would you most like to live?

If it were up to me and money and visas and language are of no issue, I would very much like to live somewhere rural in one of the Nordic countries, but I can also picture myself living in a metropolis like New York or London.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

Being stripped of my freedom and being in any way limited in my expression. Misery is when I cannot go where I want to be, when I cannot remain faithful to myself for fear of offending others, when I cannot have access to things because of financial constraints, when I cannot do what I want because an arbitrary block tells me I cannot do it.

What is your favorite occupation?

Writing has always been a source of great solace for me, even when putting words down on paper is particularly hard and my brain simply refuses to stitch one coherent sentence to the next.

What is your most marked characteristic? 

That I am shy and I keep to myself. Most people misconstrue this as rudeness or aloofness. I just do not function well in the company of those I do not know, and trying to keep up with them exhausts me. I’m just awkward as fuck, and I have been long at peace with that.

What do you most value in your friends? 

I value different things. Some friends I value for their sincerity, some for their affection, some for their humor, some for their wisdom and grace. Although I must say that I do appreciate in all of them the ability to respond to my messages in a timely manner. I’ve found that I cannot build lasting connections with people who keep me on read and habitually forget to reply to my messages.

Who are your favorite writers? 

I’ve always admired the works of Raymond Carver and Joan Didion. There is something in their spare, glossy, hallucinatory prose that strikes me as infinitely stylish. More than that, they are the kind of writers who make the reader work for it, as though there is in their sentences some riddle, some puzzle which needs decoding.

Who is your hero of fiction? 

Jane Austen’s heroines occupy a special place in my heart. Although I must say that Anne Elliot edges the others out ever so slightly. 

What is your greatest regret? 

I do not have any; I do not believe in regrets.

How would you like to die? 

Peacefully, painlessly, punctually.

Published by Jared Carl

Philippine-born, Berlin-based writer

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