Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hiccups in the road.

"I see and realize now more than ever how much I need to break away from my life here in Sacramento...I think once I do step away, no matter how frightening, I can work toward really finding my true self...I guess there's no choice and no way to really stop it: It's time to grow up." (Mar. 15, 2007)

"Ever since I've had alopecia, my parents and my family have been the people to make the big/major decisions for me. I can't rely on that and for this past year I've been trying to do it on my own. They're scared. I'm scared, but I need to move forward by myself...It's hard to be the person I 'want' or' hope' to be when I know I shouldn't wish for that constantly. But Na's right - soon I will be on my own, making decisions for myself and figuring out who I am. It's up to me to stop letting other people define me...I don't want to wake up in 10 years and regret the choices I have made (and will be making) in this period of my life...I know I have made a lot of bad/not-so-good choices in my life, but that doesn't mean I have to let those things define or change me or cause me to dwell. I am who I am today even due to those bad choices." (Mar. 16, 2007)

"I'm scared because I want to find myself in these next four years, but at the same time I don't want to lose the person I've managed to find in this last year." (Sept. 13, 2007)

Question: Can people ever truly be convinced they've "found" themselves? Life - or rather, living - is an ongoing process and I would like to think (and hope) that we gain something new out of it every single day, whether it's something good or something bad.

I was a different person three years ago. You were different too. We were even different just three months ago. It's cliché to say it, but it's true: Most people don't end up where they thought they'd be and nobody remains the same in one lifetime. Reading old journals is always interesting because it's strange to see how certain I once was about things in my life. Who knows, maybe I'm still the same in that aspect; maybe I haven't changed or grown out of that yet. I was convinced I knew exactly who I was when I left Loretto but I'm even more convinced right now that I have no clue who I am.

So how does one "find herself," and does it all even really matter? We spend so much time "searching" for bits and pieces of our lives, something to give us an identity and a purpose. We create personas for ourselves based on what we want others to see. Our favorite movies say something about our sense of humour or our penchant for drama; our favorite bands hint at our general moods and tempers. Whether the reading lists we rattle off are filled with Fitzgerald and Hemingway or chick lit can instantly tell the person across from us everything they need to know: you're either a hipster or a Carrie Bradshaw-wannabe. Even our appearances, from our t-shirts to our shoes, brand us with a dreadful stereotype.

A row of lockers at Loretto
(photo by yours truly)
Three years ago, I don't remember what "type" of a person I thought I was. I was leaving the comfort of Loretto and Sacramento, packing my life into boxes and moving hundreds of miles south. I'd gone to school for twelve years with uniforms and dress codes. I was overly-involved in activities and obsessed with my GPA. I had three best friends.

Those are the facts, but what do they really say? It's a fairly typical description. Here I am now in 2010 in a place I call "home," just having unpacked those boxes once again into a new apartment. No more uniforms, yet I still have it packed away in a drawer. Am I still as involved? Probably not. Obsessed with GPA? See previous post. I've lost "best" friends and gained some too. Nothing lasts "forever"? You bet.

And yet...that's alright. More and more recently I've come to realize and accept that transience isn't so bad. Things don't last forever for a reason. We can figure out parts of our identity and slowly piece them together. We can be inspired by the people in our lives, be motivated by affliction and let ourselves become broken by emotion. I think that's how we start to really "find" ourselves, and that's something that doesn't happen until you separate yourself from the identity you think you've created for yourself.

"Have I really changed that much? Or is it the world that's swept me forward?...I don't need my old journals to tell me some of the more obvious things, but it surprises me by what I find sometimes. Did I really think those things? Did I really say those things?...These days are different and I don't know whether to be excited, scared, nervous, or sad. All of those old memories seem like light years away. That was before I had to worry about being on my own, dealing with finances on my own...just being on my own in general...I changed a lot throughout high school. I think everybody does. And soon it'll be college for me--Will I change a lot too?" (Aug. 28, 2007)


  1. oh man this is why I love reading old journals. i don't think we realize the common themes we write about, or the gradual changes we go through, until we have a perspective from which to look back on them. it's funny how in everyday thought those days from high school feel so recent, yet when we really think on it so much has happened

  2. I think it's funny that the popular conception of "finding yourself" depends on an arbitrary revelation that usually takes the first 80 minutes of a 90-minute movie. This certainly wasn't funny when I was buying the "find yourself" youth mantra and it's not funny when I lapse into defeatism and yearn with immature angst for a "revelation" to change my life. It's kind of misleading looking back on our old journal entries and arbitrarily rank where we "were" with where we "are" - it's just easier because the entries are a snapshot of who we were.
    I think it's more appropriate to picture us sporadically chipping away at a greater expression of ourselves that we fail to portray to others and wind up with cheap two-dimensional cutouts. We let these fall into stereotype so we're easier to consume by others; how often have we hesitated & ultimately not bought/worn/enjoyed something because it would conflict with the image we present to the world?
    I really wish I had my old Moleskine (I lost it on that Sacramento trip) to list some entries from my freshman year. I moved 20 miles instead of the 400 you did, and attempting to retain my old life prevented me from creating a new one. This wasn't just the people I attempted to retain, but my entire attitude. There's a line in Stephen King's "The Stand" where an overthinker like us, Harold Lauder, wonders if he can change himself: "And he himself, when faced with the knowledge that he was free to accept what was, had rejected the new opportunity. To seize it would have been to murder himself. The ghost of every humiliation he had ever suffered cried out against it. His murdered dreams and ambitions came back to eldritch life and asked if he could forget them so easily."
    Okay, long quote, but I like his extreme hesitance to murder himself - the he who was. He's not willing to take that leap to chisel himself away, because he clings to his pain so much it controls him. Letting go, finding a new self, is too much for us sometimes. If we let it, old pain begins to define everything we do - a perverse frame from which to see the world askew. Letting go of old pain feels like betraying the struggle of what we experienced... but becoming someone new isn't betrayal, it's essential to growth.

    Sorry. Long. Really like the post.