My high school philosophy class once touched briefly upon a paradox whose name I don’t remember but whose topic intrigued me. The question was: are we the same person all our lives? Is “Ioana” (that’s me!) a consistently defined entity?
You might instinctively shout yes, because after all, you’ve got memories that belong to you and you’ve made decisions for obvious reasons you think you remember (regardless of whether or not you still agree with them).
On the other hand, the difference between us at birth and us at near-death is exceptionally great (in the ideal circumstance). Not to mention that every single cell in our body that was present at birth is no longer present at death. We are always changing and growing, never standing still and never not learning – both physically and metaphysically. Asides from the memories that seem to tie our “yesterday-me” to our “today-me”, is there really anything that guarantees the existence of identities we so desperately cling on to as “mine”?
Even our memories are inconsistent storage systems. It’s easy to forget about the things that had once preoccupied our time and the questions we had a year ago. Who were we again? And why? At 10, we think “wow, I was so embarrassing in third grade”. At 18, it was our 10-year old self that was the epitome of foolishness. At 30 (though how would I know?), we wonder what we were thinking at 18.
And sooner than we think, even our present selves become obsolete – a vague snapshot of one version of “me”. Are we constant and willing self-sacrifices to our superior upgraded tomorrow-clones?
I promise I’m not going crazy. I’m just changing a lot and I’ve been thinking about this lately because I value memories. They’re not only fun to reminisce upon, but they show us how far we’ve come in our growth journeys. They help us sympathize with a part of us we’ve so readily swept under the carpet or discarded. And even further, they can help others who are treading the path we once tread a lifetime ago. I don’t like making the same mistake twice, so why should humanity, if it can help it?
And yet, our new selves are facing forward, focused on immediately demanding concerns, that we sometimes forget where we come from.
I appreciate the value of putting things down on paper in exactly those moments of utmost transition, right before one part of me dies to be reborn to another. And lately, this phoenix-ification has happened so quickly that I feel a tinge of sadness thinking about some parts of me that will never be remembered by anyone. Not that they’re a serious loss to me – they’ve made way to something greater – but they’re a loss to what reflections I could have recorded for those who come after me.
University for me started a couple weeks ago, and it feels like it’s been much longer. I’m living on campus four hours away from the city I’ve lived in all my life. And I only knew one person (my best friend, fortunately enough!) here when I arrived. But now my dorm room is home.
After our first “frosh” week of organized activities to get us excited about our new lives, integrated into the community, and moved into campus, actual classes have started and the focus is on finding a balance in our lives. I’m sad that I haven’t had any time to write down what I’m feeling or thinking, and my memories are captured only by my iPhone camera and by the unreliable gray matter in my brain. But I’m grateful for one thing I’ve been doing.
In my bullet journal, I’ve created a visual calendar of the month whose squares are filled with one thing I learned each day. Absolutely anything. In my case, it’s all self-reflective and psychological because I’m self-torturous like that. But it’s been so amazing because it’s forced me to reflect on my experiences each day, and it’s also a way as I mentioned earlier to keep track of the preoccupations I have now, before they make way to other, more relevant ones.
In any case, there’s one lesson I’ve learned whose thematic essence permeates almost all of my other daily reflections, and it’s the importance of KNOWING YOURSELF.
Which is funny, because I just said that consistency isn’t guaranteed and we’re never really the same person. But I’m here to argue that it’s essential to throw away philosophy and absolute truth and go with our gut instincts.
I recently came to the sudden realization that there’s one really neat thing about being human. It’s that there’s more here than we think. I find that I often get caught up in my brain and perceiving myself from the outside. But I’m more than just my thoughts. I’m these legs, these arms, this body, these feelings, these pangs of pain, these waves of absolute bliss, the air entering and leaving my lungs, my lungs themselves! It’s an entire system here that is operating entirely for its own benefit and self-sustenance. Why do we so rarely listen to it?
If I tune into my body – which I’ve been doing more often now – I’ll hear it telling me things. What it wants to do, what makes it feel fulfilled, what it feels is right.
So I listen to those signals sent from me to me. In the college environment, this is especially important. There’s so much happening that there’s no time to rationally evaluate each decision and try to be something you’re not anyways. Up until now, I’ve been working to figure out what I value and trying out new things, but now what it means to be an adult is to be at peace with whoever you are, and make decisions while keeping that in the frame. It’s having the confidence to put yourself first – something you can only do when you know what that means to you in the first place.
You can’t model yourself off of anyone else’s template. And contrary to what we’ve been told all our lives, there is NO right way to live. There’s only the way that feels good to you, and if you don’t know what that is then you’re not living your best life.
It’s not an easy skill to master, but I think that once you learn to understand who you are and what you want, your life gets infinitely better.
It’s my child-like part of me that I feel like I’m losing and which a part of me wants to capture the demise of. Maybe for my kids, the young characters in my yet-to-be-written novels, or for you reading this and about to go through the same transition. But I’m slowly shedding the part of me whose mind was full of thoughts like “what are they thinking”, “am I worthy”, “do I look pretty enough”, “am I smart enough”, “why is everyone doing that” and “should I do this”. Those questions have been answered or dismissed as irrelevant and it’s time for other, more interesting questions, like “does this interest me”, “do I want this” and “where to next”.