When you ask “Who am I?” — as we all inevitably do at some point(s) in our lives — make sure you’re putting your question to the right person.
Or should I say persons.
You yourself probably aren’t the best guy/gal to ask. You certainly shouldn’t be the only one, that’s for sure.
I developed a working theory during my days as a career counselor that has proven to be profoundly true in my own life and in the lives of virtually everyone I care about. It goes like this:
You can’t fully see who you really are.
I mean this little truism as a motivational tool, not as an insult. And I mean it quite literally as well as figuratively. For it has to do with blindness.
As I write this, I am 52 years old. I’ve been intrigued with words my entire existence. Like many introverts, I essentially lived at the public library growing up, reading constantly then and ever since. Written expression fascinates me. Always has, always will.
When I write — especially about issues that really matter to me personally, audience or no audience — I routinely experience that sublime sensation referred to as flow, or The Zone in sports terms. I lose track of time and space. I’m completely absorbed. My efforts are effortless. I become Writer — and nothing else.
You might think, given this confident description with its flowery, upbeat language, that I know myself very well. But the truth is that I am only just now beginning to know myself.
Why? Because “you can’t fully see who you really are.” And so for more than five decades now, I haven’t fully seen who I really am. I’ve been blind, at least partially.
“What do you do?” I’ve been asked repeatedly throughout my adult life. I’ve always equated the question with “Who are you?” My answers have varied through the years, beginning with:
- “I’m a sports reporter.”
- “I work at a newsletter publishing company.”
- “I’m training to become a career counselor.”
- “I am a career counselor.”
In more recent years, my responses to the question have ventured closer to the real truth:
- “I write for career web site Monster.com.”
- “I’m a freelance journalist.”
- “I publish a newsletter.”
- “I’m an author; I write nonfiction books.”
But it is only now, after (finally) questioning and listening to not myself but the people in my life who really know me, that I see — and acknowledge and fully accept — what’s been in front of me all along:
I’m a writer.
We are all blind to our own gifts because those gifts come so easily and naturally to us that, well, they can’t possibly be “real” gifts!
We are all blind as well to our own essences — our own respective cores, our own purposes for being on the planet — just as we’re all blind to seeing the backs of our own heads.
It’s possible to see what we want and need to see, but we need mirrors. We need people in our lives who care about us enough to reflect back what should be obvious to us, but too often isn’t.
It is then up to each of us to not only listen to what these trusted souls are telling us, but to hear it.
And then take it to heart.
And then act on it.
Who am I? Many things — but I’m a writer in my soul of souls. I only know that because I’ve begun to ask the question differently — namely, of different people instead of only myself.
Who are you?
Who can you ask?
And will you listen to the answers — then act on them?