Anyway, she quoted Henri Nouwen (1) who says we all answer the question Who Am I in one of three ways:
- I am what I do
- I am what I have
- I am what other people say about me
Since I have been preoccupied with this question myself, and feel like a youth this newsletter is addressing, I thought it appropriate to ponder how an adult would answer these questions.
First, I thought about the extremes of any one answer.
I am what I do.
I am a teacher, a mom, a tutor, a writer. I know plenty of people who claim a title like this and that is it. They are the ultimate That.
The ultimate Mom, giving their every waking moment to their kids. They wear tattered clothes, have disheveled hair, maybe let themselves get fat from unhealthy eating, maybe wrap themselves in home cooked meals, maybe stay up late washing clothes, taking care of pets, and cleaning house so they can get up early and run the kids to all their practices and lessons.
The ultimate teacher, at school 16 hours a day, copying, tutoring, researching, running 6 or 7 clubs and sports.
Can it be destructive? sure. Can it be rewarding? sure. It's how much and how far and how taxing on your health the stress of the title is.
I am what I have.
Greed. Power. Any of the billionaires with several estates and personal jets and maids and servants and lovers and money to throw at whatever vice amuses them at the time.
Or the fabled 'Joneses' who have to have the newest car, nicest house, best clothes, and perfect presentation.
I am what other people say about me.
Self-fulfilling prophecy, or worrier.
The way people talk behind your back! They think you are (insert adjective) and so you will be!
Either the extreme of this person changes to fit every social situation, often back-stabbing others and being two-faced, or this person is so worried about what others think, they get an ulcer!
But the idea here is that we are NOT these things. The idea is that we are a child of God.
(I know, I never get all religious up in here, and God is a sticky subject on the internets. But it's Sunday. So I said it.)
The POINT is:
Saying that we are who we need to be breaks the cycle.
See, when you ARE one or all of these things; you are doing what you feel you are supposed to do, you have the things you feel you need, and people are saying nice things about you, you feel really uplifted and happy. When you start to slip from this precipice, you feel down and sad and wonder how to get that feeling back. It's cyclical.
But by looking at yourself through a different perspective (saying you are right where you need to be, you don't have to listen to naysayers, you can do something slightly different and make it work) you can break the cycle.
I can't count how many times something from my religion has been simply about doing or thinking things differently.
How many places can we go to get a different perspective? Just drop everything, the baggage, and stop in your tracks, your path, your cycle, and breathe and begin to gain new insights.
Perhaps in yoga or spiritual training or some kind. Perhaps in church or synagogue or meditation or prayer. Perhaps in therapy, or on the bus, or lying awake at night when everything is still and quiet and the tears have all dried on your cheeks.
These places and times are few and far between. At least going to church or a regular meeting increases the chances that one of these reflective moments will occur. If I am taking time to look at things with fresh eyes as often as once a week, I can center myself and break out of any cycles I am stuck in.
So, How would an adult answer these questions?
Pretty much the same as a teenager, but with more experience! These questions plague us just as much now as they did years ago. You constantly strive to become someone. You have to reset your goals and build up.
In Sapphique the character Jared says: "Life is a series of stairs up which we climb. ..Your horizons have moved." Thanks Catherine Fisher!
Who am I?
I am still learning. And that's okay!
1. Read about Henri's POV here.
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