A few months ago, I wrote an article condemning the ever-popular How To article.
And now, here I am, writing one.
Ironically—or maybe appropriately—that contradiction is exactly where I want to start rambling about how it is we come back to ourselves, in the moments when all we want to be is someone else.
So, without further ado:
1. Start by being hypocritical.
When I was 17, my English teacher assigned an essay asking us where we saw ourselves in 10 years. I think this was the first time I ever put into words my lack of a unified identity.
I decided to write four possible scenarios of what my future self might look like, because in my 17-year-old mind, blending all of the pieces of myself that didn’t seem to mix into any one, cohesive “type” of person was not only anxiety inducing, it was impossible.
Having an identity means finding a niche, finding a passion, mastering and feeling entirely comfortable in one lifestyle and being the living, breathing embodiment of that lifestyle every single day. Right?
Well, maybe. If that works for you.
But, it’s never worked for me, and has left me in a sort of life-limbo ever since the age that everyone around me started breaking off into their rightful cliques. I never quite found mine, because there were only bits and pieces of me that fit in with any one group. The rest of me belonged to countless others, and apparently there is no group for the little-bit-of-everythings.
Except, here’s the thing: we are all little-bit-of-everythings.
We all like chocolate but also strawberry, the bare skin of summer but also the warm fire and fuzzy blankets of winter, the questions we can never answer and the ones that can only be settled with a definitive yes or no, the comfort that comes with having enough and the lessons we learn from having too little, change and consistency, blue and green, silence and noise.
It is in these seemingly unlivable opposites that we are most ourselves. This is where we question the world around us and the world within us, and it is only when we question everything that we start to know anything. Our questions are what shape us. Where our wonder lingers is where our heart lies.
And, I promise, some of the best conversations arise when you surprise someone with a little tid-bit of your selfhood that they did not see coming, which leads me to…
2. Identify your element of surprise.
Sometimes, we tuck our quirks so far away in the back of our beings that we forget we have them.
We feel boring, less-than, we start to compare and wish the whims of others onto ourselves.
Here’s the problem with that wish: we don’t really want what someone else has, we want something that is entirely and uniquely our own.
And, I have some good news here, that’s not anything we need to wish for.
What’s the one part of yourself that you identify with but never act on, because you think it’s out of character? What’s the song you would never tell anyone you know every word to because it’s incredibly lame and embarrassing? What’s in the box at the top of your closet? What’s the story you’ve always wanted to tell but have never been able to seamlessly ease into conversation? What’s the truth you secretly want someone to ask, and the dare you want to prove everyone wrong by accepting?
Those are your quirks.
Those are the whims that others would wish on themselves, if you ever let the world see them.
We have them, they’re in there, and even if they are quieter than everyone else’s or less scandalous or more eccentric, they are entirely and uniquely our own. We just have to take the time to find them.
Which brings us here:
3. Take all the time you need.
This process is slow going, and quite probably never ending. It is imperfect, far from foolproof, and there are no shortcuts.
So, take a few hours. Take five years. Take three steps forward and 27 steps back.
Think you came back yourself, then realize you came back to the totally wrong person and start the process all over again.
Make your own process. Disagree with everything I just said and do something else.
Don’t do anything at all. Then, realize you haven’t been doing anything and try to do too much and slow down again.
And then, one day, when we have thoroughly exhausted ourselves from all the trying and the learning and the failing and regressing, we will sit down in a heap of near-defeat. Maybe we will sit down at a table with our best friend, or on the couch in front of a movie, or in front of a computer where we let some thoughts spill out of our fingertips.
Wherever it happens, it will be in that moment of stillness and of not trying that we realize we were here all along—waiting for the moment when there was nothing left to do but stop,
and come home to ourselves.
take your time.
you are coming
~ the becoming | wing, nayyirah waheed
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