Don't Stress About Who You Are

You can change your pen, but you’ll still have the same handwriting. Just like with chronic disease, you never really get rid of anything –  you just learn to manage it.

That might be disheartening, but it’s actually necessary. If the goal of childhood is to end up with some idea of who you are, it might sound like a stressful task. Actually, figuring out who you are doesn’t require adding anything new to your life. No new systems, new diets, new fitness regimens. It requires losing something, which is the idea of you in the first place.

Before you ask, no, I haven’t done this, and I don’t know of anyone that has. I’ve never met anyone whom I would consider enlightened. We’re all just managing the condition we call life, a mix of pain and joy.

If you ever want to know who you are, ask yourself a few times. The answer might surprise you.

I did this the other night as a meditation. At first, I started thinking that maybe I was my name. But that isn’t right, my name was given to me. It’s not who I really am.

Am I my job? No, I’ve changed jobs many times and will again.

Am I a collection of irrelevant molecules? Perhaps. But I still don’t think that is “I.”

And then suddenly it hit me. No, not some kind of answer that I could boil down into a memorable quote. But something did hit me.

Every person who has ever explored the question of who they are has returned with the same answer, even though they may articulate it differently, and even though they disagree about it.

When we ask ourselves who we are, we don’t get a real answer. Instead, we realize that when all of us are asking who we are collectively, it’s rather obvious who we are. Laughable, even.

It’s as if we’re the collective eyes of existence (along with everything else). As if we are the universe becoming aware of itself. One eye closes at the end of a person’s life, and a new eye opens on a newborn’s face somewhere else in the world. It continues. No difference.

So don’t stress about figuring out who you are. There’s nothing to figure. And managing that quandary is our life’s work.