When I was little, maybe about 9 or 10, I hated my first name.
Every teacher I had mispronounced it. Kids made fun of it. And parents always said it was "interesting" -- which seemed to be a way of saying they'd never heard of it, didn't particularly care for it, and just wanted to be polite.
I always wished I was growing up in a place like Asheville, but reality the way I saw it was that I was stuck in my hometown, Fairmont, in West-by-God-Virginia. My parents were some of the only free-thinking people I knew there that did things... well... differently. And I've come to be grateful for that, but I gotta say, when I was a little girl just wanting to fit in, it pretty much sucked feeling different all the time with the hippie name I got dealt.
But let's back up to when I was even younger, about 4 or 5. My family went to church, and we were Catholic -- which meant that once a week I got to see our local celebrity (the priest), do stand-up church comedy to the best of his ability -- and you know, offer some spiritual inspiration as well. (For me at that age though, the entertainment value was the best part of church! Unfortunately, the Catholics were still working on their routines, so I was bored a lot...) What I loved most about going to church besides seeing everyone's occasional chuckles, was talking to the strangers and acquaintances there. I was the little girl who would ask practically every week if I could go visit families in the other pews. Most of the time I didn't even know them (which is pretty funny, looking back). Partially I was just bored, and this felt adventurous.... and partially, it was just me being me.
There is a part of me that LIGHTS UP, when I get to meet new people, talk to them about random things, and ask questions. It's the part that likes casual conversations at parties. The part that always tries to get my audiences to talk at musical performances. The part that tells people like the grocer or bank teller way too much information.... And also, the part that likes to write public blogs, give interviews, and reach out to make new personal and professional connections.
Now it may not seem like these 2 stories are connected, but let's catch up to the present, and check out the reason I'm writing this article...
As an adult I started asking the question "Who am I?" about 9ish years ago. And generally, that's a great question to ask. I'd highly recommend it. But if you were inside my psyche, you'd know that I have been PULLING MY HAIR OUT TRYING TO ANSWER IT.....
What I've realized is that "Who am I?" can be a beautiful road to self-discovery. Continual asking of this question, I believe, can help us realize our soul's potential as the loving, compassionate, infinitely beauty that we are at our core. It can open up new possibilities, affirm dusty paths that inspire the soul, and breathe grace into a dull experience of living. It is also, the #1 question it seems people ask after an important transition or loss -- myself included.
(think about a time you were transitioning from something that was sucking or blocking or stifling even a little bit of your soul's energy. Walking away from or losing that -- whether it was a person, an experience, or whatever -- did you feel.... or sense.... that pieces of you were not fully expressed and alive?)
In this case, asking "Who am I?" can help call these parts back, and re-invigorate them into being. It can clarify our shared humanity, and our shared goodness.
And, there is also something to be said about just BEING as you are, and allowing that identity to speak itself clearly without trying to look for anything. Asking the question is one thing. Thinking we've found the answer is another. And it's that second part that usually gets in our way.
An example: I have called myself an introvert for most of my adult, conscious life. Is it true that I get more energy from being alone more than being with people? I used to think definitely. And now, maybe? When I look back on myself as that little girl in church though, fearless and curious as hell about what all those people had to say, I'm not so sure. I think I probably could have used a lot more of that on the weekends instead of TV, not to mention how much I loved school and thrived when I was able to work with other people on projects and assignments.
But when I tell myself, "I'm an introvert, and I do a lot better when I'm by myself most of the time." Guess what happens? I stop talking to strangers. I don't make social plans. I hide behind the counter full of snacks and wine at parties and hope no one sees me... Because why? Well, I'm an introvert, and groups aren't really my thing. At least, that's the script I've created.
Now just for the record, I've found for myself that I'm a pretty even mixture of introvert and extrovert, and I do tend to need to "fill up" after too much social connection. But how much is too much? Probably way more than I once thought. My point is that the labels we place on ourselves have a tendency to dictate our actions. Who you are, is constantly evolving and changing as your body, mind, heart, and spirit's needs and desires change. And although there are certainly constants in identity (for instance, an oak tree ain't never gonna be a robin....), most of what nature shows us, is that the face of all things living will indeed, not stay the same.
And this includes us. I now love my first name. It means "happy," and I've come to realize that it was one of the first gifts of grace that helped me connect with my joyfulness.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. You might notice that I've not really answered the question "Who am I?" here, and I've also not said whether I think it's a good or a bad question to pose. My hope is that you got something from being curious about it, and about yourself. How have you discovered something new about yourself recently? What role has the question "Who I am?" played in your life? What do you think and feel about hippies, the Catholics, or oak trees? Really, this could have sparked anything for you, and I'd like to hear about it if you're willing to offer it up.
Share any reflections in the comments below. ESPECIALLY if you're a stranger :) (like the woman in the picture who I stopped and had a great, and powerful, conversation with randomly one night when I was out to eat... that was the best!)