Who am I?
It’s not a question that I consider, because I have for some time associated it, the “I”, with personality. And personality, is an invention. We attribute so much of our selves to our details, quirks, beliefs, nationality, tastes…but really, all of these things are choices. They may feel so entrenched because we have repeated our choices for our entire lives so as to feel they are caused by an unbeatable force, but really, we learned them and we chose them.
I think I’m perhaps genetically prone to be an anxious person. There is always a rumble in my stomach that makes me unsatisfied at best, mentally ill at worst. It is always with me. It gives me drive. It pushes me to make things better, to get to the core of things, to relentlessly understand truth as best I can so that I may separate reality from fear. It makes me imagine scenarios from every possible angle, obsessively. It makes me perfect my projects. It tortures me. It keeps me from sleeping. It moves me forward.
And with this, with the slightest shifts in my experience, in the choices I made, I could have been a drug addict. I could have hidden from the world. I could have been an adrenaline-junkie.
And even more, I remember a time when I was not this way. I learned to be fearful too.
Try altering a detail in yourself for awhile and see how ephemeral your personality is. We make fun of people who do this, who, say, adopt a new accent to have affect as a new person. Your own accent came from the people you associated with throughout your life. You emulated them or you didn’t. It’s not something you were born with. Why not choose a new one? Your name and your worldview have all come from societal constructs that just happened because of a certain chain of events and aren’t necessary for your authenticity. One over the other has only the meaning you ascribe to it.
We believe right now that authenticity is a vital virtue. Mind-numbing commercialization and the branding of each human as their own product makes us long for a culture or person that came about naturally, that flowed from history without self-consciousness. However, plenty of harm has flowed from unconscious societal evolution. The deeply entrenched racism that we are currently further pulling back the veil on in America flowed from the same accepted histories and versions of self as did the details of culture we classify as good. All of these things are in the end, choices and none are mystically more “real”.
So if the personality that I associate with identity is essentially an invention, then what is it I mean when we say “I”? I feel like I am closest to knowing the answer when I am not myself. I feel I am not myself when I recognize the choices I have made that diminish my spirit, that make the world a little dimmer. There are times in my life where I have felt like a bright shining light and there are times in life when I feel like I have buried myself underground and the difference seems connected to whether I am somehow being true to myself. I know I am not myself when I speak more quietly because I am not saying what I mean. I know I am not myself when I put off writing this blog because I don’t want you to know me, when I want to tow the line of an invention of a person that protects me.
The parts that I have denied have made me dumb. It has made my brain heavy and swollen with inactivity where there should be flow. My curiously withers by the false initiatives I allow and I slowly die. When I am not myself, the speed of loving energy that makes wonder possible is pinched and theoretical. I am stuck in an architecture of my choosing to feel liked or safe or correct.
I know we are so much bigger than the sum of our details. Identifying so closely with this body, we miss the point. I’m less masterful at knowing when I might be my “true” self because the moments of that kind of purity of being are rare. But I do know that when I am that bright shining light, I am unencumbered and I have few attachments to the definitions I have created to define who I am.