Never let your Identity be Attached to Something
“There is one thing and one thing only that causes unhappiness. The name of that one thing is ‘Attachment’.”
-Anthony de Mello
Ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, and they will tell you various things, but generally, not veer too far off the beaten path. So you end up with answers like a policeman, maybe a pro athlete of some sorts, or a teacher. Heck, one time I had a little boy at a Boys & Girls Club I worked at in college tell me he wanted to be a tree.
For those of us that can reflect back on what our own responses were to that question, or what they were at one point, I’m sure little of us ended up being what our much younger selves wanted us to be.
Fret not, as I can assure you your much younger self is not looking back at you with disappointment and disdain because when asked that question, your younger self had no real concept of “growing up”.
You see, when you ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, what they’re actually telling you is what they want to be at that very moment. Children live entirely in the moment because they lack the experiences that we all have as adults. The same experiences that also then cause us to stress about the past and worry about the future.
Humans are the sum total of their experiences, and most importantly, how they’ve reacted to those experiences. This means that as your experiences grow and differ more and more, so does the person you become at that moment, along with your perspectives, values, and worldviews.
So why then do so many of us lose our identity by identifying with some set goal such as allowing a career path or job to become who we are and who we identify with.
Phrases like, “I’m a cop, or I’m a teacher, that’s who I am.”, come to mind.
Well no, not technically, you, in fact, are you. Being a police officer or being a teacher is merely part of who you are.
This is where we tend to go wrong and in the process, lose our identity. We attach ourselves to being a cop, or being a teacher, which means we then conform our identity to “what teachers do, who they hang out with, et cetera”, rather than conforming our career or path to our identity.
If you wanted to be a fireman when you were a kid and now run a small business, it’s not the “fireman” that changed in the time that spanned, it was you, the experiences you gained, and the new values you’ve developed as a result, so wouldn’t it be foolish to even consider adjusting our lives to this pre-determined goal?
But so many of us do.
And then eventually, 20 years later, we wake up wondering what the fuck happened and go on some search for the “meaning of life”, when in actuality, your purpose has always been in front of you, you just chose to defer or ignore it. In the midst of your procrastination, the inevitable happened, which was having your path chosen for you.
The goal should always be the same. TO BE OURSELVES.
Within that goal, you can then choose to float on, find the path that will allow your true abilities to be maximized, and in so doing, find fulfillment by not striving to BE ANYTHING but rather by allowing your abilities and desires to be fulfilled by finding something that BECOMES PART OF YOU.
Luckily for us, the one permanent thing in life is our ability to exercise choice. Life is constant change, which means change is inevitable, thus, leaving nothing to permanence outside of our ability to choose.
By resisting change and not using our ability to choose by attaching our identity to finite things, we are going against the will of the universe.