How do you know who you are?
My whole life, I had no idea who I was. Sure, I’m Chris, I’ve got a brother and both of my parents, all of my limbs and organs (mostly), and when I look in the mirror I see the same face, growing every day. But in all honesty, who am I? Everyone gets to say I, and yet all of us are different. Every single one of us is I. So how then do we differentiate? Up until the end of high school, I felt as if I were floating through life like I had no control over how I acted or what happened to me. I felt as if I were watching my body go through life without any say. Emotions came and went rarely, and I never knew if I was actually feeling something, or I understood what was supposed to be felt and mimicked that.
Now, I have learned that while all of our actions are guided, each choice we make is a constant back and forth between our ego and higher self. I have always had control over all of my actions, and only through my actions could I indirectly and directly control what happened to me, to an extent. I am still trying to understand the floating, not in my body feeling, but it seems to have a lot to do with my neurochemistry. In previous articles, I have gone in depth with terms and neurotransmitters, and this one will only touch on neurology. Understanding who we are entails something much larger than science alone can describe, although the articles on serotonin and oxytocin may help a bit.
Over the years, I have had many emotional extremes of up and down, followed by a complete lack of emotions altogether. I learned that all of this stems from something I didn’t realize I have, and while I have never seen a “professional” for this, I hit every mark under the term Asperger’s. All through school, I have had no idea who I was. I floated from group to group, trying to fit in, and it is easy to say that it rarely worked. But I am forever grateful for all of the experiences I have had, as they have brought me to where I am today.
All of my stories will be told as this journey grows over the years.
Do not run from your shadow, it will only grow larger.
Imagine if you split yourself into two. Clone yourself if you will. One part of you is who does the dishes, folds laundry, makes you eat and sleep and be get things done even when you do not want to. The other half laughs, plays games and watches TV, eats lavishly, has sex, substance, and all pleasure imaginable, without responsibility. As you spend every day in pleasure, you can tell your dutiful half to do all of your chores, work for you and build you anything you could ask for.
The catch? The working half, free from the distractions of thrill and enjoyment, completes every task at lightning speed. It comes to you when you are in the middle of relaxation, asking for more to do. Each task you give is completed faster than the previous. As you run out of tasks to give, you become fearful, as your other half is growing, menacingly. It grows larger and scarier, demanding that you give it a task, a job. You beg and plead to just go back to relaxing, to pleasure and fun. You run to the bathroom, to look in the mirror to make sure all of this is real (of course it isn’t, I told you to imagine, remember?).
Your darker, workaholic self stands intimidatingly behind you, growing bigger as your happier self shrinks into doubt and regret. You wish you had worked more, but also wished you weren’t so hard on yourself. As you slink to the floor, you realize that both of these creatures, the desire for pleasure and the desire for challenge, are both you. Trying to only have one, will never work. Sure, it can happen, but neither side is sustainable on its own, there has to be an even balance of work and play. When you split yourself, and run from love or responsibility, the side you are ignoring becomes your shadow.
A not so well known poet, but a beautiful soul nonetheless, Rudy Francisco once wrote, ““My hobbies include editing my life story, hiding behind metaphors and trying to convince my shadow that I’m someone worth following.”
I really think those words resonate with this idea of our shadow.
We all are a balance of spirit and ego, mind and body, physical and psychological.
We could go on forever talking about how and where our mind comes from, how we are aware, and why all of this is even a thought. Humans have questioned consciousness since the beginning of our time. Seriously, ask me a question and we could talk about the why’s for days. Now, neuroscience has shown us that all of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors, everything that we are and do comes from trillions of neurons sending and receiving messages all over our body. We still have yet to define the relationship between physical matter and mental/spiritual phenomena.
With all of this in mind, learning how our left and right brains work have shown me vast amounts of information as to how I have developed over the past 20 years. Our left brain is analytical, logical, mathematical, written words, linear processing, hard and concrete understanding. Our right brain is creative, intuitive, musical and artistic awareness, and “thinking on the spot”.
In first grade, running in from recess, I tripped and hit the left side of my head on a concrete wall, jutting out from the bathroom. Every time I have wondered why my math or reasoning skills have been slower than most, the next thought I have is that memory. This sequence of thinking started long before I learned anything about the hemispheres of our brain. This event is one example of how millions of moments shape who we are. In a matter of seconds, every micro decision I ever made was influenced simply by hitting the wall. Now take this, and look at your own experiences, and see how everything affects everything.
So what about that shadow?
Find your purpose through what you love to do, and focus on those few things.
Shadows form when there is something in between light and the surface is it shining on. Our shadow is always with us. Acknowledge it as part of yourself, accept that you have as much evil in you as you do good. Choose to be good.
Every single one of us has a handful of things we absolutely love, a big bag of stuff we tolerate, and a couple (hopefully not too many) parts of life we cannot stand. Most people end up confusing having a life with making a living and spend most of their years doing something that started off as tolerable. Of course, this is only my own perception, and I very well could be wrong. But from what I have seen, many people around me answer with the blah attitude of “fine” when I have asked how they like their job. There have been several studies that contradict each other, saying a vast majority of people dislike and love their jobs. As with anything, look around you and decide for yourself.
I love to write, oh do I love to write. Hence the article you are reading now. I love words, I love learning how people interact, think, and act. I love martial arts, and I love creating things from crazy ideas that pop into my head. I can tolerate working with my hands. I can tolerate mowing, working in the yard, outside sweating and doing manual labor. A long day of cutting logs starts to become a kind of meditation.
I despise being in a factory. Not the being around metal/concrete, building something. The building part is fascinating. But the defeated attitude, the “I’m doing this because it’s all I know and need a paycheck” while listening to negative after negative on the radio, depresses me. I really would love to hear about a factory or big industrial workplace out there that doesn’t have this feeling in the air.
Create your own story, live the life you want to live.
There are an uncountable number of ways to make a living. How many people within 10 miles of you will pay you for your time? A vast majority of those tasks would be at most tolerable, and some of them would be outright horrible.
Every single one of us has a handful of passions, and I cannot stress to you enough how important it is that you pursue these dreams. People, relationships, the love of your life, also count. I could be the most famous writer in the world, have millions of fans and millions of dollars, and still be miserable if there were no one to share this with. As much as we can love our profession, no amount of work compares to that of human connection.
Relationships are their own work in themselves. Just as that dream job, it may take a few tries and failures before you find the perfect one. And even when you have that dream job, that soulmate who invades all of your thoughts, it still will be the hardest thing you have ever done. I promise you that. But god is it worth it. Michelangelo, the famous painter and sculptor of the Renaissance era, once said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
As former Olympic gymnast Dan Millman once said, “Continue to improve without having anything to prove.”
Embrace who you are, regardless of what the rest of the world says. If all of us did this, nobody would feel bad being their truest selves. People will shoot you down before you even get started, telling you what will make you happy when they are not happy themselves. A select few people will understand you, will let you be yourself regardless of where you are and what you are doing.
I have run from my shadow for most of my life. I now know that everything happens to bring us where we are now, so that we may learn in the way that is best for us. Life has a funny way of working out. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. I have acknowledged my shadow, accepted the darker parts of me, and choose to become a better person. It is easy to give in to impulse, easy to relax all day with no responsibility or work for eternity without trying at love. Really check out those last two links, it will be worth your time.⇑⇑
Embrace who you are, run at life full speed and don’t leave any part of yourself behind.
There is never a better time than now to do what needs to be done. Make that phone call. Visit your grandmother. Finish that project. Where would you be if you had started that thing you wanted to do years ago? We only have one chance. Seriously, don’t waste the one life you have. When we are patient with ourselves and others, we automatically become kind. Not every moment needs to be spent working, but neither does it need to be spent in relaxation. When you find the person you love, the dream you adore, work and play become interchangeable.
No one ever said it would be easy. They only said it would be worth it. Failure is part of life. Learn to love failure, as this guy does. At the end of the day, when I have been turned down for the hundredth time, comes the break. The approval. It will come. We know who we are when we wouldn’t rather be doing anything else, with anyone else.