Finding out who you really are is tougher than you think

Note: Multimedia-heavy post ahead.

This quote from The Art of War made me think a lot about who I am and whether I do really know who I am.

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

Sun Tzu – The art of war

I’m still convinced that knowing oneself is not a one-time-only event and you’re done; It is a destination... the moment when you think you know yourself you don’t because you’ve already changed and moved on from being the person who you thought you were. So who are you really? How do you define yourself and how do you let the world around you define who you are?

You are not your mother and, most certainly, not your father

I have a weird family… I’m starting to convince myself of that little fact. It’s not a bad thing for the most part. One of the things that has always bugged me is that my mom pushes and pushes hard regardless if she’s right or not or rather with the permanent assumption that she’s right and, therefore, the other person is wrong. She has also taught me to always go forward even when I don’t want to. Needless to say that most of the time she’s been right but it’s the constant nagging without even worrying whether I need it or not that drives me nuts and up the wall. I’m afraid that I’m turning into a nagger like her. I’m afraid that I’m reverting back to the old mode of not listening while I frame my reply. I’m also realizing that I may be letting my choices color my relationships with people around me and, you know what?, for once in my life I don’t care. I’m starting to think it’s ok for me to put myself forward and not let others dictate what I do and how I do it.

My dad, I realized very early on, lost all his drive to move forward. I’ll never forget the time when he was offered a PhD scholarship to Spain and he turned it down because he didn’t think he was ready for it. I later learned that he had started two more high-paying careers by attending schools (business and medicine) but that he had dropped out of both for whatever the hell reason he had at the time.

From Left to right: Dad, cousin's son, me. December 1999

From Left to right: Dad, cousin's son, me. December 1999

It scares the living shit out of me. It scares me that I’ve lost the drive and passion that I’ve always (felt I) had. It scares me not to have a clear direction as to where I’m going and what it is that I want to accomplish. I decided it was not Applied Anthropology (although I may revisit this the next time I get bored) but I’m not looking forward to the amount of work for such an uncertain result. I wonder if that’s what dad felt after he was fired the last time before he passed away. The truth is that I need to rekindle my passion for technology in education or whatever career I choose to pursue. Yet, at the same time, I want to expand who I am and what I do… The trick is to do it without loosing sight of your are at the core, those non-negotiable things that really make you who you are. I think I’ve also managed to temper the worst of my mom’s drive. I can stop and I can communicate with people before things get to the shut-in stage… I try to help her but she pushes me away; I don’t think she realizes that there is going to be a point where I won’t want to help anymore.

You base your life around certainties

It’s kinda funny when I look back at my life that I’ve always functioned based on certainties:

  • From 8th grade until my sophomore year in college I was absolutely 100% certain that I was going to get my MFA in theater direction so I could work in regional theater and create through other people. That fell through because I realized that the level of stress was not something I wanted to put up with 24/7
  • After I started my MA in instructional technology I was 100% certain that I was going to go for a PhD in instructional technology and teach 4-year college. After procrastinating on it for years I managed to get an application in and rejected… not sure if I am going to do it again or if I’m gonna do it in education, anthropology or another field.
  • Back in January 2010 I started job hunting again and, again, was 100% certain that I wouldn’t have any problem finding a job because I’m me. The economy wasn’t an issue… I was me and I was going to get the job because I have always accomplished what I wanted regardless of the obstacles placed in my way.

See a pattern? It took me a while to see it myself but now that I see it, it scares the shit out of me. I have lived life in terms of certainties and haven’t, until recently, come to fully understand that life is all about shades of gray, that if you can get even 50% certainty that something is going to happen you should count your blessings and make the best out of it.

Not saying that planning is bad or anything but it becomes and issue wen you loose the flexibility you need to react to change rather than making the world revolve around your needs and wants.

You base your life on those around you

When was the last time that you really did something for yourself? Not because it was the right thing or because someone really wanted you to do it but because you felt it in your guts that it was good and it was right to do it?

Part of the problem with basing your life on others is that you loose the drive to do things for yourself and when it comes time to actually get your ass in gear you hesitate and when it comes time to actually work on something for yourself you don't move as quickly as you need to.

The sad truth is that if you don't take charge of your own life some one else will do it for you and you'll have to live with the results.  I think that's what my mom was trying to teach me.  In taking charge of my life in a way that I didn't like I think she was pushing me

You are a risk taker (really?)

There are times when I feel so bold and ready to do anything. Then I realize how much of a coward I really am. Sure, you moved across the country to try and control your life and that didn't work.

You get upset when things don't go your way

You hold a grudge for a long, long, long freaking time

(Sometimes) you care too much, (others) not enough