I have always felt that there is who I am, and who I was meant to be. – steadily skipping stones
Earlier this month, averageinsuburbia wrote a compelling blog post about life and happiness: Who Said Life Was Supposed To Be Happy? That led to my friend over at steadily skipping stones writing her own follow-up happiness post entitled: Is Life Supposed To Be Happy? Both blog writers often challenge my ideas and cause me to think deeper about certain issues. Skipping stones’ quote above made me pause at the time, and all weekend I thought about identity and acceptance.
Averageinsuburbia’s original question (who said life was supposed to be happy?) caused me to nod my head in agreement, mainly because anytime someone uses the words “supposed to” there’s a part of me that immediately wants to do the opposite. Perhaps it’s my inner rebel, or all those years of having to keep to a rigid schedule as a elementary school teacher, but I have to agree with the thoughts behind the question.
Of course everyone would like their lives to be happy ones, but a lot of times they aren’t. I think the tough times are important, and teach us to appreciate happiness when it does appear. Some of the strongest, smartest, most interesting people I know are the ones who’ve had to overcome huge obstacles in their lives, especially when they were children or young adults.
And, besides, what is happiness? Safety? Comfort? Satisfaction? Not worrying? I don’t know if it’s possible to be truly happy all the time.
After a lifetime of wanting, wondering, and striving to be happy, I think for me it’s nothing more than acceptance of what is. It means not fighting the things I can’t change. It sounds simplistic, but I really believe it comes down to that.
So what does this have to do with who I am versus who I was meant to be?
When I was fifteen, on the cusp of adulthood, I remember struggling with who I was. I spent hours each night scribbling in my journal, knowing I was just a few years away from independence. My life could take off in any number of directions. I couldn’t wait. I had so many dreams for the future, but I was also shy and nerdy, and didn’t know which parts of my personality and interests were the real me.
At fifteen, I really didn’t know who I was. But now, looking back, I haven’t changed all that much, even though I think I know myself well. Is there a core part of each person that never changes, even though the circumstances of our lives do?
A few weekends ago Michael and I worked a water stop at a local race. I was having fun, being silly with my friends and the runners, and enjoying the day. Michael said to me later, “See, that’s the real you, the one who’s extroverted and having fun and not worrying about anything.” He never believes me when I tell him I’m an introvert and not comfortable at parties or in large crowds.
His whole idea of a “real” me is bothersome. I like to think that the quiet me can co-exist with the outgoing goofball me, that they can be two sides of the same coin. Why does the real me have to be outgoing and fun, not quiet and introspective? Why is one more real than the other?
To me, thinking there’s a person you were meant to be, someone other than who you really are, displays a certain dissatisfaction, a yearning for something you consider to be better. I’ve never met steadily skipping stones, but I know I would like her if we ever met in person. From her thoughtful, insightful blog posts I can tell she’s smart, caring, honest, earnest, introspective, and not afraid to ask the big questions. She’s a great person, and the fact that she struggles to be something beyond who she is speaks volumes about how much she cares.
But it also makes me sad because I happen to like who she is, and hate that she feels she was meant to be anything more than who she already is.
If the person you were meant to be means you should be doing great things with your life, do those peripheral actions make you a better person? If who you are is measured by what you do, are you a lesser person if you’re satisfied with your life and your actions? Should you always be striving to be a better person? Who determines what is “better?”
This is a slippery slope indeed. I’ve always ascribed to the idea that actions are stronger than words. I once loved someone who would tell me twenty times a day how much he loved me, but did things that showed me otherwise. I told him his words were meaningless. I’d rather have someone treat me with care and kindness and never declare his love. I need something I can hold onto, and sometimes words just don’t cut it.
He was a good person, but I expected more than he expected from himself. I knew I couldn’t change him, or force him to be a better partner, and I ended the relationship. The problem was mine because I couldn’t accept who he was. It wasn’t enough for me. I only saw who he was meant to be–but it was my idea of “meant to be,” not his.
Kind of like he was “supposed to” be a certain way with me.
So I’m a hypocrite. I’m not always satisfied with who I am. I want to be a better person. I want to be more patient, more optimistic, more accepting. I’m still working on it. I think most people are doing the same.
But I honestly don’t know if there’s a person I was meant to be or not. With all apologies to Hamlet’s soliloquy, is it better to just be, or to strive for more?
What do you think? Do you think there’s a person you were meant to be?