A thought has run amok in my mind for the last twenty-something years and in my posts for as long as I’ve been writing. I’ve not only questioned what I want to do with my life but I’ve pinned my identity to it, and since I don’t know what I want to do then you have a decent idea about how well I know myself. I have yet to find that special thing that defines who I am or what I’m good at or what I should be doing. I’ve come to the conclusion, more than once, that my present world is enough because I am blessed with a good life and people who love me, whom I love. But each time I come to this conclusion, I remember that I thought of it before. I remember that the idea didn’t stick, and so the revelation deflates. Maybe I keep abandoning the idea because I’m not satisfied with the answer. That makes me feel like a rotten person, but if I look more closely at the answer it’s clear that I’m not deviating from what is good. I need to explore who I am more fully. I need to learn and experience and do more if for no other reason than to improve myself and maybe even the world around me or the world at large. I don’t want to fall into complacency; I fight against it, though it sure would make my life easier if I wouldn’t.
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The water at the beach I went to last week was like liquid jade. Any deeper than knee level was opaque, which meant that if I were standing not far from the shoreline I wouldn’t know whether a shark were coming at me unless the leading edge of its dorsal fin were in air and pointed in my direction. I’ve always stayed out of the water, the sea, because a shark will eat some portion of my body. Not that the situation would be different in transparent waters, but not being able see what’s in my immediate vicinity is unnerving. So I was surprised last week to find myself up to my neck in seawater, by choice. I didn’t think of sharks until I was treading water, and even at that moment I felt no immediate need to swim to shore.
My lack of fear to face certain challenges has kicked in. It took only forty years to achieve confidence in myself, but this freedom from the bondage of paralysis was well worth the struggle. The effort isn’t complete, however, and it never will be. Obstacles I’ve never faced will continually pop up, and that’s okay. I don’t fear them, not lately anyway. Not fearing is not really the point, though. The test is perpetual, is having the courage in spite of fear to get out of bed every morning for the rest of my life ready and willing to make the most of my day without allowing myself to be overcome with dread of what may or may not come or regret for what I did or didn’t do to come short the day before. At the end of the day, colloquially speaking, it’s all of these mornings of courage added up that allow me to make the most of my life.
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Philosophically, to know thyself means a lot of things, a couple of which are to know thy limits and to not allow thyself to base thine own worth on other people’s opinions of thee. My wise old mom put her own spin on the idea. She told me every time I walked out the door on a Friday night, “Remember who you are.” Her comment, advice, warning, imparting of guilt, whatever, always perplexed me. I had yet to figure out who I was. And I have yet to figure out who I am. But I’m working on it. So far, the process has literally been one adventure after another. Knowing what fears and feats I’ve beat in the last few weeks alone has made looking in the mirror a better experience. I have yet to meet my full potential, to feel satisfied with who I am, and to be honest I hope I never do. There’s comfort in the possibility of being better. There’s excitement in the attempt to meet a challenge, though there have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. There were plenty of times that I did throw in the towel and then moved on to something else. Perhaps the ancient proverb is a message promoting the journey of self-discovery. My journey appears to be a process of elimination. The thing I never fully realize, the summit I never reach no matter how far I climb, that’s the thing that will define me. And if that’s the case, then knowing myself is knowing where my potential is limitless. And if that’s the case, then I know myself better than I think I do.