Who am I? It's a question I've been struggling with for years. Everything I thought I was suddenly seemed not so important to me anymore and I had to redefine myself outside of other's definition for me.
So who am I?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I'm asking the wrong question. What I should be asking is Who do I want to be?
We are who we want to be
There are many things I'm good at, many things I'm interested in, many things I like and many I don't. But all of those are either emotions and opinions I have that rise up unbidden whether I want them to or not, or they're activities that I do to a certain level of skill and competence. None of them truly define me.
You see, I firmly believe you get to choose who you are as a person. And whether you achieve it or not, that means you are the person that you want to be.
Let me explain.
I'm not a great musician. In fact, even calling me a musician of any degree of skill would probably be a charity. But music is very very important to me and I'm always going to want music to be a part of my life. But I'm also driven by the challenge of creation. Whether it's art, a story, or in this case music, I don't want to just be a bystander, watching and clapping. I want to be a part of that. I want to learn to put my own flavor on it, to express myself and see what I can do, if only to appreciate how difficult it is and how well the professionals are doing it.
So I picked up the guitar.
But to call me an amateur guitarist, a hobby musician, a student of music, any of the typical tags associated with that would be ignoring the many layers of wants and ambitions that went behind it.
We are who we want to be. And I'm not just a guitar player, or rather a guitar attempting-to-player. I'm a music lover, a creative who likes to challenge himself, someone with something to express.
I would never have discovered any of this if I had just looked at what I was doing, or what I liked. Guitar playing didn't exist in my realm of possibilities and I never would have done it if I hadn't asked the right questions.
Why am I like this?
The first of those questions is Why am I like this?
If you stop and take a look at your life, you can probably see a number of things that describe you. Maybe you have sports team posters on the walls, or a stack of books by the bed or a half finished painting on the desk, or packed study schedule on the wall. Maybe your clothes are bright and popping, or maybe they're simple and sober. Maybe you have a funky hairdo, or maybe you stick to what works.
All of these are great descriptors of you and your life... If you're looking at it from the outside.
But you being you, you get the inside track. Why not use it?
Ask yourself Why am I like this?
Why do I like sports? Why did I feel like putting up that poster on the wall? Why did I pick out these clothes from all the others? Why did I choose this hairstyle?
As you explore the answers to these questions, you start to discover parts of yourself that you didn't know you had.
Like maybe you like sports because you enjoy the competitive spirit. Maybe you put up that poster because you wanted to feel like a part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you're choosing bright colors because you want to stand out and make people pay attention to you. Or maybe you stuck with a hairdo that works because you're afraid of experimenting with new things.
As you peel back the layers, you start to realize there's more to you than what everyone else can see.
And at the center of it all is your wants, your desires, your ambitions and dreams.
Who do I want to be?
I want to be someone who is good at what he does. It drives me to push harder and set more ambitious and rigorous goals than I normally would have.
I want to be someone with a lot of skills. It drives me to explore and try new things, and try to get good at them.
I want to be someone loved and respected. It drives me to reach out to as many people as I can, to try and connect with them and find common interests or passions.
I also really want chips. It drives me to buy a bag of chips every now and then.
They don't all have to be deep and meaningful.
But who you want to be drives everything you do, from the time you wake up in the morning, to the first thing you do when you get out of bed, to who you talk to and choose to spend your time with, everything is driven by who you want to be.
And that... Is really who you are.
Who am I?
You are not what you can do, or how you spend your time. You are not who you talk to or how you dress.
That's how you interact with the world.
Who you are is what drives you to interact with the world in the way that you do.
And that drive comes from the person that you want to be.
A few years ago, when I was wrestling with the question of Who I was, I felt lost, unsure, adrift and lacking a sense of identity or purpose. If you had met me then and asked me to introduce myself, I'd probably have mumbled something incoherent before quickly excusing myself because I didn't know what to say.
I can't confidently say that I know who I am today. But I'm beginning to understand more and more who I want to be, and that is giving my life meaning, direction and definition.
So who am I?
Where do I begin?