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Who Am I?
It seems like there are two questions most people never really think about:
Who am I?
What is death?
I’ve noticed that, nearing end of life, folks do that kind of life raft thing where they’re suddenly aware of how precious and amazing it all is and begin to really contemplate more important things than, say, what color to paint the living room or can I afford a BMW this year?
Who am I? is, of course a tricky one because right out of the babymaker we’re totally subject to our parents’ whims and meddlings. Like Catholic church and astrophysics. Have you ever noticed how many doctors have a parent who was a doctor? Dad went to Dartmouth, so did kids. Mom was a painter, kid had painting supplies her whole life and wo! Fancy that, kid paints really well! How many actors spawned Hollywood denizens? Deion Sanders’ sons all play football, that sort of thing.
Very few parents step back far enough to inspect with detached curiosity their spawn. Many parents, in fact, turn their kids into (they think) the person they wish they could have been. Always backfires, lots and lots of yelling/years in therapy.
There is a theory that we come into this world having chosen our parents, which puts the onus squarely on us and is certainly a game changer in the blame game of who gets to decide how I live my life?
But back around to the question at hand.
Who am I?
Probing a little deeper, we hit the bedrock question, what is consciousness?
Who decides what I think, how I act, what choices I make?
How to weed through all the forces pressing down upon you all day every day?
Every question leads to a deeper question, leads us further back in the history of time. It’s hard to get a grip on the whole thing, it’s so slippery and slimy and the Dolphins kick off at 4 and there’s fresh pie in the kitchen! I just would rather … DO ANYTHING THAN THINK ABOUT THESE HARD THINGS!
Here’s the thing. I have heard people, 75, 80 years old, rounding the bend to death, say, I had no idea who I was.
A lot of life we spend trying really hard to fit in, wanting to be something we think will please others and win us friends. If you live long enough and really look around you’ll see, however, that it’s largely the renegades, the outcasts, the ‘troublemakers’ who get interesting shit done. Sure, you can bear down and do the thing … go to the school Dad went to, get into finance, buy a nice house, buy a nice vacation house, go to Sun Valley every year with the fam. It’s fine, it’s pretty and it’s super appealing on the socials, but it might end up being … I don’t know, dull. You might wake up one day wondering how it all happened, where the time went, how you ended up living someone else’s life.
They don’t give you space in school to try to figure it out. School homogenizes people. Everywhere you turn the world is trying to get money out of you—your existence is an opportunity for someone to monetize your every move. They want you in predictable boxes doing predictable things.
But who am I? is a really big, wonderful, amazing and beautiful question and I want you to step outside of all of it long enough to try to tap into the answer.
When you think about why am I here? or what am I supposed to do while I’m here? think about what you love. What you loved right from the start. What were you always yearning toward? Wanting to be left alone to do? My nephew has been making incredible drawings ever since he could hold a pencil. I remember him once telling me that his teacher insisted he color in his drawings. He was really angry about this and rightfully so. She was interfering with his vision, whatever it was nestled in his soul that came here with him and compels him to draw. It’s his alone. All of us are in awe of his work. He’s 11 and he draws like this:
It’s not paint by numbers, either. Can you even imagine what it takes to draw eyes with that much detail? Funny thing is that neither of his parents are artists.
Kid has an artist’s signature, for christsake. And as long as the world leaves him alone with his art supplies, he’ll keep being who he came here to be. I worry about this, but I think he might already be enough of a badass to fend off people like the moronic teacher insistent on coloring it in!
What do you love to do? What makes your heart sing? When do you feel most alive?
Whatever that is, do more of it. It does not matter what the world thinks, you do not want to die with that juice still in you. Ask people wherever you go … how did you get into this work? Then pay attention to the ones who say, I knew when I was a kid that this was what I wanted to do …
I have a friend who is a seamstress. She’s so good at what she does. She has this little nook of a workspace and in there she not only takes on all matter of sewing projects, she also chats with everyone, knows everyone in town, tells you she loves your kid. I know from knowing her for a while now that ever since her neighbor taught her to sew when she was a kid is was all she wanted to do. And all she has done, and she loves it still, 45 years into it.
Sverre Caldwell, nordic ski coach for 40 years: “It was my dream job.”
I have a friend who is in high school. He’s funny and smart and talented in a million ways and has a whole life full of compelling interests and right now he’s stuck inside high school, bored out of his mind and biding his time until he’s done. What would you rather be doing, I asked him recently. I’d rather be out in the world working and making a living. I’d rather be fishing, hiking, biking …
Living. This mature kid just really wants to be living life.
I am so deeply sorry for the dumb constructs we have created and impose upon humans, most of the time for no other reason than this is how we do it and we’re not imaginative enough or brave enough to try a different way.
This is precisely why it’s not easy to know who you are. Or even what you want. We’re conditioned to want things we can buy. The new couch will make me so happy! If only I owned a real Georgia O’Keefe … imagine how perfect my life would be!
What you really want, my friends, is to die all spent. Having lived a life that was true, that felt like it was yours, in which you did what you came here to do.
Every time someone tells you you’d good at what you’re doing, that’s an indication that you’re on the right course. If you get sick a lot, are always trying to figure out how to get out of things, use sickness as an excuse to get out of things … you get the picture … if you’re always trying to strategize how to get out of doing what you have to do, that’s probably a good indicator that you’re not living a life meant for you.
How do you change the tide once it’s in motion? You just do. You don’t worry about all the fallout, you just make the changes you need to make to live the way that makes sense to your heart. You will look back one day from the perch of death and wonder what took you so long, why you were so scared or worried to make the changes you needed to make.
From the vantage point of death you will see that life was a big, wide open space. And if there are constraints in your life—most of us have them—the karmic energies of your existence have placed them there with reason and purpose. Life and death are not random occurrences.
What and where you are are of your making.
Please, if nothing else while you’re here, delete the apostrophe t.
Tomorrow: what is death?