Who am I?
My things? My skills? My occupation? My music? My name?
I have become none of these things.
I have long struggled with the all-struggle; my identity. For years I sought to become who others were. Most of my young teen years were spent hoping I was in, but knowing I was so far, far out. I was so desperate for that attention, yet so weak I mostly just shied away from the in crowd, instead of taking the risk of embarrassment to fit in. I needed to be something to someone, and no one had any interest.
I was never the best looking guy. Never was the best athlete. I was pretty smart, that I’ll give myself, but by the time it mattered (to whoever it’s supposed to matter to), I didn’t give a shit. I spent many years pining after one, or two of the same girls, to constantly be rejected. I spent many years pining after the attention of older, cooler, kids, to mostly be ignored. I spent many years feeling alone, and ignoring myself.
When I reached my later teen years, I found my identity in me being different. I searched high and low for the most obscure music, books, comics, and video games. I would talk endlessly about poetry, and music, to people that I knew had no clue. I would never have admitted that, but I began to identify myself by the differences I had with people, and those differences made/ke me feel good. Really good. That fact that I knew who Death Cab for Cutie was in 2005, made me feel special, and forced people to pay attention to the differences I held with them. The fact that I read the Walking Dead before it was ever even an idea for a TV show, forced people to pay attention to me. Because I let them know.
I didn’t do these things because I wanted to be different (I already was), but because I wanted to be known, and no one knew me, nor (it seemed) cared to.
I spent years becoming an arrogant, sarcastic, really-bad-at-being-stoic stoic, and probably ruined a lot of relationships I could have had.
But my identity was always in crisis. Regardless of the years I had/ve spent crafting this person I am today, I still doubt many of my decisions every day. Every choice I’ve ever made since I began making ones that matter have been for the benefit of others, in a bad way. While I know that all these decisions were so my thirst to be known by others could be sated, it is still terrifying to look back and see all of the “me that could have been.”
All these things began to rise to the surface when I started going to therapy on a regular basis. My intense need to be understood, to be known, to know I’m loved. I never truly felt/feel that. And it makes living hard.
A few weeks ago I was reading a chapter out of Henri Nouwen’s collection of teachings Spiritual Direction, to the small group I’m a part of at my faith community. I hadn’t really prepared for it, I just decided I’d read something out of a book I kind of read, but knew was good (based on other people’s descriptions). The chapter was on our identity. And who we are as people. And mostly, who we are not.
Jesus’ whole message is saying you are not what you have, nor what people say about you even when that’s important and even though it makes you suffer and even though it makes you happy, that is not who you are. I come, Jesus says, to reveal to you who you truly are. And who are you? You are a child of God. You are the one who I call my child. (Now, child doesn’t mean little child, child means son or daughter.) You are my son, you are my daughter – Nouwen
What I took away from this chapter was this:
I am not my things.
I am not my skills.
I am not my occupation.
I am not my music.
I am not my name.
What I am is Beloved of YHWH.
When the Creator, the Great Spirit, Wakhan Tahnka, Ngalyod, or whatever other names of God we have, looks at me, s/he sees beauty. It takes convincing, and I’m still not convinced, but s/he sees the most beautiful creation that has ever been made. I am the beloved of the Creator, and s/he loves me. More than any other can love me. And s/he knows me. More than any other can know me. And s/he understands me. More than any other can understand me.
And s/he loves you. More than any other can love you. And s/he knows you. More than any other can know you. And s/he understands you. More than any other can understand you.
And you are beloved of the Creator. And in all your struggles, and in mine, for searching who we are, or believing we’ve found it, it is always hardest to fall back on this simple reminder.
You are loved.