Quest for Identity
This is a working draft.
On this train that is adulthood, my only thought is I want to be you.
You are special. You can do anything. You will make a difference.
You’ll be President. Your Pulitzer Prize winner will fly off the shelves. Your startup will revolutionize the world.
I watch you with my colored glasses and I wonder if the tint is green. Why didn’t I develop that? Why didn’t I think to write that?
You’ve done it and I think, I want to be you.
Instead, I’m just another restless passenger on this train that’s charging forward. I stare down at my ticket.
There’s no known destination, no times. I don’t even know if I need to transfer.
When I had first found my seat and tasted my independence, I felt lucky. I’m finally a real adult, and those advanced placement exams, A’s, extracurriculars… all of that paid for my ticket to be here. I had this immense sense of possibility. A buzzing energy as I observed the overabundance of other adults who had caught this train too.
Yet, when I saw you, I realized: I’ve made it, but I haven’t arrived.
At first, only an anticipation emerged that my life should come together any day now. I got up and sought a drink in the car over, and during my cocktail hour, mingling taught me that I’m not special to this train. And I can’t be anything and everything.
The sentiment deepens — you are more: more special, more ahead, more likely.
Somehow, I’ve started to settle and I’ve let myself down. I am hard on myself. Of course, I am my strongest critic.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve somehow become untethered to that balancing, mitigating feeling where I used to be special to myself.
So I feel lost as I sit back down. And I hear,
Yoohoo, in reality, this might be it!
I might never do anything more than what I’ve done up until today. Maybe I’ll just be seated here forever. How terrifying. #TooReal?
There’s this constant agony in my head. A deep, subtle dissatisfaction in every moment — I feel completely crazy. My mind, the madhouse, shrieks if only I was you.
Abstractly, vaguely, I know though that I really just want to be me.
So I start pondering what is my project, my idea, my thing? Success teases me as I spot out the window of glimpses of passengers choosing destinations. This colossal world has endless stops and I’m overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, this internal pressure to figure it out is debilitating. Are my standards too high? Can I never live up to my fantasy of my future self? Am I okay with that?
So I turn to meditation. Because what better way is there to come to terms with myself?
Through the process, I learn that life is marked by disappointments. Buddha told us, “Life is suffering.”
Despite its bleakness, the sentiment soothes me. Happiness does not last forever and its loss may feel painful, but that is the essence of being: impermanence and constant change.
My restlessness, thus far, stemmed from fear — so much fear! I’m afraid I can’t achieve what I want. I’m afraid I will lose what I already have. I’m afraid of never being satisfied.
Meditation has taught me, or maybe I have tried teaching myself, that I cannot get everything I want. My adulthood dilemmas of which stop to get off at, which job to take, where to live, which friends and partner to have will only solved with time. The uncertainty, not knowing whether working towards something will get me there, is terrifying.
It freezes me. So not getting off this train and choosing a stop is easier than knowing, committing, doing.
Being confused about my choices is nothing more than hoping that maybe there is a way to get through life without having to make hard decisions or failing.
There’s no magic to life. What I want isn’t going to just come about by sitting here though. I need to explore, make commitments along the way to construct a stronger self-identity.
So first before I commit to a stop, I must accept myself. And again I come back to meditation. More specifically, cultivating two tenets of the practice into my life: mindfulness and concentration.
I need to recognize my desires but not be controlled by them. Have a bare awareness of myself and my surroundings and cultivate my mind.
More importantly, I need to kill this neuroticism within myself. All this criticism and contempt for myself is not leading anywhere.
And it stems from my obsession with you.
I need to see myself as I am now. Not you, or the fantasy of an unknown future me. I must make peace with the fact that the only control I have is my acceptance of and kindness towards myself. Seeing myself for who I am must be done without illusion, judgement, or resistance.
So no more trying to bury my fears and no more need for security and validation. Time to face reality and cope with exactly what I find in this search for myself. Try out these stops that interest me, take leaps, experiment with work and be all right with getting back on this train and always keep moving. Make commitments as I choose what to do and understand how to do it well.
I am coming to terms with my adult years drifting by and I’m more at peace in my seat, even though the speed of this train hasn’t changed.
There are no guarantees, I must claim what I can.
Most importantly, I must be intentional in what I choose — for only then can I make my own certainty. I can’t be defined by what you did do.
And I definitely can’t be defined by what I didn’t know or didn’t do.
Now is the time to understand me.
This isn’t finished, I just was tired it being in my drafts section. I’m sure I’ll come back to actually polish this off and totally rewrite it sometime soon but maybe not for a few months. Just wanted to share though rather than keep it to myself.
Marina Keegan’s Opposite of Loneliness and Song for the Special
Mindfulness in Plain English
What makes it an inspiration for this piece?
Anything I thought about, dreamed of, looked at, quoted, paraphrased, read while writing.