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Inventing self

A reflective moment, January 2009

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings, 1955

Time stands still for no one. It keeps marching forwards and we are forced along with it either happily, or kicking and screaming like a petulant toddler, or completely oblivious. We often will time to go faster, or to slow down, thinking this will somehow make a difference. We do everything we can to capture moments in time. Our memories and the associated memorabilia we collect help to ensure we remember what took place so that it’s not lost forever. Human beings have even come up with a totally arbitrary way of measuring time. We allow time to rule our lives.

Meanwhile, no matter what we humans do, the earth keeps spinning on its axis ever faithfully and reliably. Along the way it may pick up a few extra seconds but in the overall scheme of things time with its unfailing progression is a given. We are increasingly more and more pre-occupied with time and how we manage time  in our daily lives.

Most people accept the notion that things will change with time. This is invariably linked to the concept of progress. For example, when we look at old photos of ourselves we often laugh at the way we may have dressed but we nevertheless accept that things were different then to now.  Yet a big part of us is so change averse, especially when it comes to changing ourselves.

For me the weekdays blur into the weekends. I don’t want it to be like this – only it is. On Friday evenings I am always exhausted while at the same time I feel relieved and excited. I have plans in my mind of what I am going to do with my two days off.  I want to catch-up with my family and friends, blog, take photos, write, study, create, plot and scheme, go for walks, spend quality time with my husband and son. Most of all I want to get in touch with myself and work on my future because this is what keeps me going – the dream that things will change, that I will change and be able to live the life I want for myself. I wholeheartedly believe I can achieve all this in a weekend on top of all the routine things that have to be done like cleaning, washing, ironing, gardening, shopping and a multitude of other things as well.

The reality is that in the blink of an eye the weekly cycle begins again. Before I know it it is Sunday night and I find myself reflecting on all the things I haven’t achieved over the preceding few days. I always feel dissatisfied no matter what I did manage  to get done because it rarely nurtures me deep within. All too easily my priorities become clouded by competing demands and other people’s priorities and invariably I feel bad about this.

Changing ourselves always sounds so easy, and in theory it is. In practice, there are factors at play that often stop us from doing what we want to. It takes a huge amount of time and energy and we can find ourselves asking, “Is it worth it?” Changing ourselves can be a daunting task but this process can begin by doing only one small thing. A beginning is better than never doing anything.

This morning for the first time in ages I woke up determined to spend some time doing what I love – exploring, learning and reflecting.  As part of this process I watched a TED talk by Sarah Jones where she talks about her interest in invention of self or selves.

We’re all born into certain circumstances with particular physical traits, unique developmental experiences, geographical and historical contexts, but then what?

To what extent do we self-construct, do we self-invent? How do we self identify and how mutable is that identity? Like what if one could be anyone at any time.

Be kind to yourself and enjoy the you that you are at this moment. If you don’t like who that is do something about it. If you can’t do it alone get some help. The control does lie with you. The obstacles are merely there to test you, to see how much being authentic really matters to you.

Ask yourself:

  • How committed am I to myself?
  • How much do I want to work on myself and maybe self-invent me?
  • Does being authentic (true to myself) matter to me?
  • Is there some small change I can make at this very moment?
  • Am I ready to get involved in creating a personally significant and meaningful invention?

I’d like to finish with the quote that I used to start off this post. It is one of the most powerful quotes I have read in a very long time. Take a moment to read it slowly and think about how this applies to you.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings, 1955

You are a prize worth fighting for.

I am a prize worth fighting for.

This is a journey worth investing in.

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