Thursday, 29 December 2011

The search for self

Does anyone else feel like by the time you're my age (30s) you're supposed to have settled down in your search for self? Like the questions and uncertainties of teenagedom and university life should all be answered? That the insecurities of who you are should be settled?

I always thought that was the way things are. And maybe they really are for most people (I might have to wait to hear from you readers out there on this one.) But lately I feel like all those firm decisions I made about myself aren't so solid after all.

I've always struggled with some real dichotomies in who I am, what I love, what I believe. There are times when I look at what I oscillate between and wonder how on earth I can reconcile such opposition within me. How can those diametrically opposed ideas co-exist within me?

In the past, these varying differences have always led me to share parts of myself with people, but never finding anyone to relate to me as a whole. When I'm bonding over showtunes, I rarely find I can discuss at length the latest hockey trade. When I'm pouring over construction plans for my fence or deck with someone, I usually don't bring up the schooling versus education debate. If I was planning a canoe portage camping trip, I probably wouldn't be also sharing my experience as a hair model. And most people might not understand when I was really torn between learning to play the flute in band or joining a competitive volleyball team. In high school, I was on the Mathletics team the same year I made the senior Field Hockey team in grade 10. I have a deep desire to be a homeschooling mom living in the country and to work in the film business in LA. How on earth do all these things mesh?

These are all interest-based, and I suppose fairly superficial. I've managed through the years by floating between many groups, having to be satisfied with finding something in common with who I was with at the moment, rather than developing a deeper relationship with a couple people with whom I shared much more in common.

What I'm finding difficult now to reconcile are the belief-based ideas that I find competing with each other. Perhaps some of this comes from my debating team background, an ability to see all sides of the conversation, and a desire to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes I wonder if it comes from the very strong and equally divided personality I have, where I am equally faith/emotional based as I am scientific/reason based. Generally people fall on one side or the other. But for me, I've always fallen smack dab straddling the fence. And I often find it so very hard to reconcile within me.

All this thinking is what led me to my opening paragraph - am I supposed to have figured this all out by now, or is it okay to still be shifting? Is it that I never really answered these questions before, or that my life experience is opening my eyes in new ways? All of this is swimming around in my head; they are not conversations I have yet felt comfortable to have with any person yet. The questions seem a little scary because mostly I don't think there really are answers for me, despite the confidence many others out there seem to display. Maybe some people really do have their life, beliefs, and ideas all boxed up with a pretty red ribbon and feel completely comfortable and assured in what's inside. But something tells me that that kind of stability is not in me to find. I crave ideas, I crave conversation, I crave debate too much.

So I wonder if you feel like your search for self has levelled out at some point in your life? Do you feel like you came through the turbulent years of youth and now stand on solid ground? This doesn't mean that there isn't growth in the future. What I'm referring to here is really the outward display of confidence I see in a lot of people who stand firm and declare themselves to others. I admire that stability, but does it actually exist? Or are they, too, having questioning conversations in their minds?


Jules said...

I think I understand what you're asking. I've always felt like a child in the sense that others have so much more experience than I in whatever I might be doing, and that leads to feeling insecure about my comparable ineptitude, but my need to do things my way and the way I was raised to be a confident and self-reliant woman makes it look like I know what I'm doing to others. I tend to intimidate people while most people intimidate me. Weird, no?

To answer your question, I will be the first to proclaim that I have no idea what I'm doing. While I used to think I had myself figured out, I realized how naive that was once Alex was born.

I don't think anyone has themselves completely figured out, and anyone who appears to have done so is a great actor. I think you're correct that the stability we see in other people might be an illusion, but I consider you to be one of the most stable people I know. Riddle me that.

Maybe that's ultimately what life is about and you never really HAVE to figure it out completely. New experiences are supposed to change your perspective. I think life would be boring if you had yourself completely figured out by your 30s.

Also, I played baseball for 15 years and yet, in a move no one would have predicted I'd make, I chose to perform in a pathetic 3 piece band at Wonderland instead of play in the Championship game that won my team first place - the only time my team ever won anything. Dichotomy indeed. Still kicking myself.

Anonymous said...

Shift, my friend. Keep shifting.

Life is an adventurous struggle wrapped in mystery!

As we age I think the basic grid we work off of can become more stable as the test of time and experience prove our beliefs increasingly true or false... As the underlying structure stabalizes, so too the pieces above.

At the same time, I think we are made by our Creator to hold a remarkable capacity for diverse, creative, expressive potential that we don't come near to realizing because we get stuck under the lies of the world, the burden of sin, the reality of a 24 hour day, etc. etc.

This pilgrimage is what life is all about!