I loved asking my college students to give me three traits or characteristics that made them unique from others. I wanted them to see their rareness, and, therefore, value. I would write on the board:
WHO ARE YOU?
They were always intrigued by the question, and I would tell them that each one was a “self,” a distinct human being. I informed them that our experiences in life shape us into being different from others, whether because we need strategies to survive in our worlds or just to feel human, as though we didn’t just pop up in a garden somewhere.
I told them to not give me answers that they thought sounded good or who others told them they are, but to truly look deep inside for those traits that allow them to feel capable of enduring anything that the world may inflict on them. I understand how what others think of us can create in us a sense of self that isn’t true to who we really are, but that living up to other people’s expectations allows us to hold on until we can find the freedom to find and, if we are blessed or lucky, to be our true selves.
So, Who Am I? First, I am a dream-catcher, encouraging people that no matter what situations they were born into or have endured, they can still dream and seek with all their hearts to fulfill their dreams. I seek to help them find their passions, and, in doing so, locate their place in the world.
Second, I am a hope-supplier, meaning that with my stories of surviving what many would consider impossible to live through, I give people hope that they, too, will be just fine. I give them reason to believe that tomorrow will be a better day, if they can just hold on to what a better day looks like for them, advising them that our visions of a better day may be different but no less relevant.
Third, I am love-sharer, someone who loves to let the people around me know that they are special and wonderful. I needed a love-sharer in my youth, and because I did not have one, it took me years to see my specialness and rarity. So often we become for others what we needed, desiring to save others the suffering we have endured.
So that is who I am, and now that I am retired again, I must find a way through my writing to be who I am, to fully live my life and feel useful and of value. Because ultimately, it is being and living as we really see ourselves that adds spice and vitality to our lives and makes it possible for us to appreciate the uniquesness of others.
So, in three words or traits or characteristics or whatever you use, even a poem, tell me, “WHO ARE YOU?” REALLY?