Who am I? This is a subject each of us has wrestled with at some point or another. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be exploring who you think you are, the reality that begs to differ, and how it all works together to define or delay your dream life. Today I’ll kick it off by turning the microscope on myself and give you a glimpse into my own personal process of self-reflection.
I want this to be a deep and insightful article delving into personal identify, a subject that occupies my mind most days. I want it to be insightful, cathartic, and deep. I want it to clearly summarize what is going on in my head and the analysis that has been going on the last 2 years. Instead, I fear the words may tumble out of me like an upturned box of thumbtacks, dancing across a tiled floor without finding any meaning.
I’ve never been one to shy away from tough moments so I’ll give it a shot.
For 2 years now I’ve become increasingly aware of an odd state of being:
I am not the man I believe that I am.
This is not the same as saying I am not who I want to be or I wish I could be something different. No, that would be an easier reality to understand. Instead, I find myself looking in the mirror each day and believing I am someone slightly different. It is not a completely different vision I have of myself, more like a copy with a few minor differences. Like a photocopied document with lint on the scanner.
It is clear that it is only me that notices the differences since no one else can see this image I’ve created in my head.
Before I go on to0 long, I feel I should explain a bit about what I mean by the phrase “I am not the man I believe that I am.” Virtually every day I encounter some experience, decision, or opportunity that requires a reaction. Whether it is someone cutting in front of me in line, a stranger eating lunch alone, or a chance to turn left when our plans have us turning right. In each of these situations I stand back and examine the event as if I’m watching
a “conversation” between 2 people: the man I am and the man I believe I am.
I believe I am the man who:
- Understands and accepts that people cut in line all the time but that I will not let my life be controlled by the actions of others. I let this roll off and continue my day.
- Walks over and asks the stranger to join us for lunch. I introduce myself and realize this is a great opportunity to meet and engage with another human being.
- Is spontaneous, ready, and able to change plans at a moment’s notice.
I truly believe that is the person I am.
I Am Not This Person
Since we left the US I’ve found a desire to examine myself far greater detail, a scary proposition I realize. Now that I’m living my dream it brings me into a far greater self-awareness phase of life. Or, maybe this is just how a mid-life crisis begins…
Time and time again I’ve shown myself to not be the person who lets unfairness roll off my back. While in China getting off a bus there was a woman who kept pushing me aside to demand the driver get her bag before mine. After 10 hours on the bus I was frustrated that she could not simply wait her turn. I stepped in front and pulled our bags out, barely missing her as in the process. I let this get under my skin and ruin the rest of the night.
I plan to be spontaneous, only to let the planning take hold. Of course, the fact that I type “plan to be spontaneous” should reveal the truth. When we arrived in Europe in August I believed I would be able to just wake up each morning, head to the train station without a plan, and just start going. Each morning I wake up with this belief, only to find myself pouring over maps and train schedules.
There are a few examples of me approaching a stranger in my life, but history shows this is an exception and not the rule. While enjoying lunch in Lucca, Italy I noticed a woman about our age sitting alone reading a guide book in English. It would have been so easy just to pop over, introduce myself, and see if she’d like company. But instead I chose to stick to the comfort of our table.
I am not the man I believe me to be. I am not who I am, but what the hell does that mean? Regardless of the reason, I’m finding that exploring the dichotomy of “the 2 Warrens” to be enlightening.
- Why do I believe I am different than I really am?
- Which person do I really want to be?
- How do I merge these 2 ideas together into reality?
I pose these as 3 common questions that can be answered with a quick Google search, but I’ve found that after 2 years I’m only now able to articulate that this idea even exists. Let alone finding an answer.
I believe I am different
Reality can be sobering. As I look at each of these situations I am genuinely surprised, and typically disappointed, in my reactions. It stinks to discover that your expected reactions to don’t live up in reality.
It is apparently easier to believe in the person I am not than to fully accept the frustrated, unfriendly, planned out person that seems to keep showing up and taking the stage. I constantly vow to respond better “next time” only to find that “next time” and “last time” do not differ in my response. How in the hell could this be?
One of the key reasons is that the person I am, the one living the life of his dreams, wants to grow as a result. I want to be a better person because I am having these experiences and want them to alter me in some way. When I see the person I think I am I am merely surprised that I am not that person already after 2 years of living this life.
Who I Really Want To Be
Ah, the $64,000 question. In my mind there are 2 Play-Doh versions of me standing across the room for each other. I believe the person I want to become is a mashed together version of these 2 ideas. Of course, it could just be saying a lot about me that I use Play-Doh as the best representation of me. Perhaps that in and of itself screams insight.
For the last few months, as I’ve discovered and wrestled with this concept, I’ve actively worked to merge my two selves together. I can see that I am slowly changing. My frustration with the unfairness of life is beginning to dull, my desire to introduce myself to strangers is increasing, and my twitch when hearing the word spontaneous is not as pronounced.
Merging Two Ideas Into Reality
I can control how I react to perceived unfairness and avoid lashing out. Recently I contacted Expedia about their “best price guarantee” for a package we had purchased. After 30 minutes on hold and 20 minutes on the phone they came back with an excuse as to why I would not be eligible. I responded in a calm manner, expressing my disappointment but not getting angry. This is a big change for me and shows there is hope in becoming a calmer person in the face of unfairness.
I’m finding that I CAN be more spontaneous. I proved this to myself when we took off from Slovenia last month on a train with no destination in mind. I also realized, without distress, that I’ll never be fully comfortable being unplanned. I need some level of structure in my life.
Over time I envision these 2 images of myself merging together, with me changing as a result. I now recognize what I love about myself, but also areas that will always be a “work in progress”. I suppose that is true for all of us. Each experience is an opportunity to explore who we are as people and determine if we like the current answer. If not, we can step back and ask ourselves why and what we’d like to change. There are no right or wrong answers, only questions left unasked.
My name is Warren Talbot and I yam what I yam, but that’s not all that I will be.
In the next installment I’ll be providing you a guide to help you answer the question “Who Am I?” for yourself. I’ll provide you with questions and actions you can use to determine the person that fits with your reality and the dream life you envision.
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