I find myself thinking about what defines us as people. We wander around within our identity, thinking we know who we are, but probably rarely really thinking about what that means, all the different aspects of who we are. The accident of our birth, the way we were raised, our social encounters, our personal choices, the hardships we have suffered, the success we have enjoyed, holding all these aspects of ourselves in the forefront of our minds while we wander through life would drive us mad. It would be like trying to hold all the facets of a diamond in your vision at once, or contemplating infinity.
When I was in D.C. I found myself walking downtown, a lawyer on the way to take the oath of admission, no longer young really though not quite old, the adult version of an adolescent. I felt the mother in me missing her children, the wife missing her spouse, the daughter wishing her parents could be there to see. I encountered the 12 year old playing dress up and experienced anxiety when I wondered if I had managed to fill out the forms right and follow all the instructions or if a single moment of oversight would render my journey useless. I held hands with the actress who wonders if she is playing this role really well or if it really is her. I recognized the grieving friend wishing a lost loved one was there swearing in with her, and the beloved one who carried the wishes of many on her shoulders. It was a crowded walk.
It left me thinking. Do we discard parts of ourselves because we outgrow them or are we incapable of holding all these facets in our minds?
I spent a decade of my life singing, dancing, and acting. I studied theatre, I learned tap, salsa, and swing. I sang in Jazz choirs, chorale choirs, and alone. I performed on stage in front of hundreds of people at a time. I went dancing multiple times a week and loved every minute moving to overly loud and trite techno music surrounded by sweating hordes of humanity. I haven’t entered a club in months, I haven’t sung anything other than a lullabye in years. I still love to sing, to dance. Why did I drop these things by the wayside? Why didn’t I pick them back up again?
I spent a decade of my life swimming, competeing in swim team and getting up before the sun to dive into an unheated outdoor pool and swim 50 laps. I haven’t swum a lap in years.
I spent 6 years weightlifting, trianing my muscles to life more and more with each repetition. Now the heaviest thing I pick up is my daughter.
Do we decide at some point to stop doing, and therefore being, all these things that we loved or do we wake up one morning, alone for the first time in years, and find ourselves wondering where all these wonderful experiences went? I remember choosing not to go further in the theatre, I remember wanting a different professional life, but I don’t remember consciously discarding everything that came with it.
Once we have lost contact with all the various facets of our selves, is it too late to reintroduce them? Can we pick up where we left off? Will they even seem interesting to us anymore? Do the choices we make throughout our lives change us so dramatically that the people we were have little to nothing in common with the person we are? If so, is that former part of us still within, frozen in time, forever happy doing the things the current us chooses not to do or could these prior selves be a cause of the strife and discontentment that seem to come with age? Would we feel stifled if we still did in our thirties what we found fun in our teens?
It was a fleeting feeling, this crowded walk into downtown D.C. I was easily wrapped up in the moment of the swearing in and made a number of friends during the process. By the time I had left this sense of being surrounded was gone and I was filled with purpose and distracted by ambition. I am writing this tonight because I started a new series and it brought abruptly back my crowded walk.
Joss Whedon strikes again.
One thought on “Definition…”
I suspect we get what we need from things and move on, incorporating those experiences into who we are, so they never really get discarded. Sometimes we even drift back to them. I had hours of fun playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids when I was 7, but if I went back to doing that, it would be clear that I hadn’t progressed from 7 years old.
It’s still pretty sad to look back on times past, sometimes, though. Along with my memories of Cabbage Patch Kids come memories of my mother when she had more energy and my father when he could hold a thought for more than a few minutes at a time, and before I’d experienced things I wish I hadn’t. Everything is so tightly wound together.