Who Am I?
Who Am I? Has anyone ever asked themselves that question? Well, I never did – at least not until I hit 40. And no it’s not because I’m “over the hill” – I can’t be over the hill when I haven’t reached the top, yet. And as I cruised past 50 and now I’m 55, it seems to be more prevalent that the question arises in my thoughts. Is it because I wonder if my life has had purpose? Who am I? Am I the culmination of everything that seems to have occurred in my past?
Come with me as I look back at the stories that have brought me to this place and time, to see if there is a clue as to Who I Am.
Wah! Did it begin as an infant? All the baby knows is if it is comfortable or not in the environment. Does it smell where I live? Is it wet? Am I clean? Am I being fed? Am I loved has to do with how the sounds and faces show up in front of it. Hmm. Maybe not so different today?
Later, when the food includes things like lima beans and Brussels sprouts, I learned one of the first hard lessons – maybe not everything that shows up in my environment is good for me. And then the second grade happened – this is when I got glasses – I found out that I didn’t see the world like everyone else did and that was a bad thing. Corrective lenses are the technical term. And something even more devastating – I found out that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren’t real. Why was that so important? Well, pretty much up until then I believed everything that my parents told me. And they were the ones who kept telling me that I was loved.
In the third grade, more stuff – tonsillectomy, appendectomy, BRACES – even my body was rejecting me! By fifth grade I was totally alone. I ran to my Mom and cried “I don’t have any friends!” She took me in her arms and comforted me – “I will always love you”. And then she did something “mom”-umental – she bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated! “If you want friends, you need to speak their language.” This worked! Life was better when I was “accepted”. But did that define “Who I Am”?
And then something else happened – the swimsuit edition!
Like a bolt of lightning – I discovered – that there was an “opposite sex”. The rules for friendship and Twister would never be the same. I was a bit slow in this category, though. Maybe because I enjoyed hanging out with my new friends. What they thought of me certainly seemed important, and what my parents thought – well that seemed to matter less and less. But did my friends define me? It wasn’t until I was a senior at Upper Sandusky High School that I finally had a “someone special” – a girlfriend! And how she looked at me meant everything. Now – well, now there was only one person whose words meant anything! This was “Who I Am”!
But it didn’t last. Off I went to college, leaving behind my friends, my girlfriend – the comfort zone of my youth – to do what every other 18 year-old does when they go to college – party! And learn to talk to the opposite sex. And also to somehow decide what we want to be now that we’ve grown up? How we want to make money for the rest of our lives while we spend the money that our parents made for all of their lives? It’s the American Dream!
And if we were lucky – we might even fall in love and get married. And then we enter the real world, where we have to make money. And then we might have kids. And if we have kids then we don’t have money, anyway. That also seems to be how it works. Now, my job, my family, my house, my car seem to define “Who I Am” – and although it seems that I have “made it” – there was something missing. And it took me 20 years to look really at what that might be….
Now I’m 57, standing here – looking at all of you. Do I care how you see me, what you think of me? Well, yes, damn it! But there is something that I have been discovering, and Toastmasters – you – has helped me to discover it. When I celebrate in the accomplishments of those around me – when I congratulate and encourage the people in front of me and around me – when I am giving something and not expecting anything in return – then, I am feeling that I know “Who I Am”. I know this is true, because I feel good doing it.
The world is not happening TO me so much as I am happening to my world. What I hold to be true becomes true in my experience.
I have many friends. I am loved. I love.
“Who Am I?”
“I am the only one who can answer that question.”