“You should be more open?” she said in a rather disapproving tone, “No one has time to wait on you to start talking, you would lose out if you remain like this.”
“I should be more open, I should be more open,” I mumbled the words to myself as I found my way home. I wondered why I wasn’t like the other kids who chattered nonstop and participated in all activities. She was my class teacher and I believed she knew what she was talking about. If she said I should be open, then she was right and whatever I was doing was wrong.
“You talk too much! Wise children observe, not everyone is your friend.” He blurted out shaking his head slightly disappointed as we drove home. My dad had found me laughing wholeheartedly with his new sales girl, I had just met her. My father loves me, a fact I never doubted, he wouldn’t say something if it wouldn’t help me. And even though he occasionally compared me to my cousin whom he perceived as more ardent, he really just meant to say, I should pick up her pace, I should be like more her.
“Why do you shy away from other children? Go and make friends.” That was my mum, “did you see what she did on stage,” she went on, ” I wonder why you cannot be like her.” I bowed my head in shame, I didn’t like performing on stage. I preferred writing short poems and stories which no one ever read. I wished I could be like the girl on stage to make my mum proud.
“Well, it is your decision, you have everything figured out.” My uncle sarcastically remarked after he had listened to my plans. I couldn’t understand it, he had taught me to take control of my circumstances but when I had done that, he thought I acted like, I didn’t need anyone’s help. It baffled me.
My family loves me otherwise, they wouldn’t be bothered by my actions. They did what they thought based on their experiences would work for me. While the spoke out of concern, their words collided in my head turning me into an “adapter.”
My friends thought I was funny and a little crazy. My Mum thought I was shy and withdrawn. My Dad thought I was too soft for the real world. My Uncle thought I was too naïve. To other people, I was either calm or, snobbish. I was something to everyone depending on who they were to me. I could conveniently play any role but myself.
I tried not to appear too smart to avoid being regarded as unfit amongst my peers. I’d rather talk about petty things that seemed cool but were of little interest to me. I wanted their approval, for some reason it made me feel better about myself. I dwelled on their opinion to detect my opinion.
I was apologetically mindful of what they would think if I did this or that. What would she say? Oh, my! What would he think? I had to protect the image they had of me except, I was totally unsure what it was.
I had a dream of who I wanted to be, far-fetched from who I was and even further from who I was told I could be. I didn’t know who I was or what I genuinely wanted. I sunk into the opinions, circumstances, experiences, influences and fears that enveloped my reality.
Then one day, out of the exhaustion and anxiety that comes from changing faces and bottling emotions, I exploded and It was extreme. My actions left them perplexed and incapacitated in render help. Only then did I realise that no one could do what only I could do for myself. It was an insurmountable measure of power I had willingly handed over to others when in fact, I am the sole wielder.
who am I?
I am a person like none other ever created or will ever be created.
My feelings and perceptions are unique to me, they express my thoughts and affiliations and are highly liable to change.
My past is an array of experiences that have somewhat adjusted the lens from which I view the world, yet it is but a lens and can be readjusted.
My dreams embody hope and aspirations of all that I sought to become.
However, these are only but a part of me, not me.
Caroline McHugh in her TED talk on The Art of Being Yourself, “When you look at remarkable individuals and when I say remarkable or successful individuals, I don’t mean monetarily successful; I mean people that have been successful at achieving whatever they set out to do -you’ll find that the thing they have in common is they have nothing in common… Life is large. But most of us don’t take up nearly the space the universe intended for us. We take up this wee space around our toes…In fact; people who are frightened to be themselves will work for those who aren’t afraid. Now your job is not to be anything like any of the people… In fact, your job is to be as unlike them as you can possibly be. Your only job while you’re here on the planet is to be as good at being you as they are at being them…And it’s the only place in your life, the only place in your life, you have no competition. Try and find a comparison to yourself, and you’ll draw a blank…When you figure out how to be yourself it’s an incredibly liberating, untragic way to go through life.
You don’t develop an identity that’s predicated on being a patchwork personality. You’re not a composite, an amalgam, of all your experiences and influences. You’re not just somebody’s boss, or somebody’s mum, or anybody’s anything. You’re yourself….what I want you to think about is with every passing year, your job is to be better and better at being who you already are…Your job is to figure out how, and then to be more of that…Now your entire life, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how old you are, your entire life, from birth up until now, has been about building a stable relationship with your ego. You need an ego to live in a Western, capitalist world. If you didn’t have an ego you’d be toast. But your challenge is to take the ego from its dominant position and pull it back so that it’s in service to yourself…Otherwise, why are you here? It’s not like you’ve got a spare.
So when you think about your identity, when you think about what it means to be alive, when you think about why you deserve to exist, you’re not your thoughts, because you think them. And you can’t be your feelings, because otherwise, who’s the you that feels them? You’re not what you have; you’re not what you do; you’re not even who you love, or who loves you.
There has to be something underneath all that…Even when you’re born without many of the attributes that some of your peers may have, even when you’re born in a way that may lead you to feel impotent if you can tap into that voice if you can tap into that inner voice… So if you can do this, not only will the speed of your life get quicker, not only will the substance of your life get richer, but you will never feel superfluous again.”
Now, who do you say you are?