Identity Formation

You can be whoever you want to be. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t.

First accept the basics, the things you can’t change – find your baseline. What are you working with? What do you like to do, what are you interested in? Get your bearings with yourself. Maybe you have no idea – so start trying things. What are you curious about? What are you drawn to? How do you want people to see you, how do you want to see yourself?

Want to be funny? Watch a bunch of funny movies, hang out with funny people, notice what makes people laugh, what makes you laugh. Want to be well-traveled? Find a way to go on a trip. Make a list of places you want to go, experiences you want to have. Seek them out. Want to be healthy? Start working out – try running, try yoga, try boxing. Go for a hike. Eat a salad, a handful of nuts. Practice. Want to write? Get a notebook and a pen, open a word document – start typing and find out what you have to say. Want to be a history buff? Go to school. Read a book – the library has a wealth of free options, anything you want to learn, you can learn.

The key is to see the possibilities – don’t limit yourself, don’t put yourself in a box. You have a mind, a body – you can build yourself, you can choose. All it takes is a little observation, a little practice, and – primarily – a belief that you can.

abstract pen and ink drawing

I recently watched the Coen brothers’ movie A Serious Man. The main character is shoved around by his life, his wife, his job – by circumstances. He envies his wife’s lover – a man people called “serious.” And he tries to be a serious man. But he doesn’t seem to get it, doesn’t quite believe he could be serious, doesn’t really know where to begin. He confesses to a Rabbi – “I’ve tried to be a serious man.” But was he? Did he own that identity? I’m not sure he made it in the movie, but all it would have taken was confidence.

I always loved the movie Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale, Jr, masterfully played by Leonardo DiCaprio, molds himself into a thousand men, plays a different part for every phase of his life. He acts as a pilot, assembling a crowd of flight attendants to breeze through the airport, works as a teacher, a doctor, a playboy. He was a conman. A confidence man. A man with enough confidence to believe that he was a doctor when he put on that white coat, and everybody else believed it, too. But if he hadn’t believed it, no one else would have.

I went to school for creative writing – had workshops with other students, swapping stories and offering critiques – writing. Ask most of them if they were writers, and they’d tell you they were trying to be. They wondered how to continue writing after graduation, how to make sure they kept at it. But it’s deceptively easy. All they had to do was write. Write a single sentence, and you’re a writer. All you have to do is believe it.

I also spent some time in business school, and a popular maxim there is – “Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want.” If you want a certain role, start by looking the part. Then act the part. Believe that you are capable of playing the part, and before long – you’ll get the part. Because other people notice confidence – they respect it, appreciate it, admire it, and generally, reward it.

Maybe this sounds deluded, silly, impossible. But you have more power than you think you do. You can always grow, teach yourself lessons about things you want to know, practice self-improvement until you love every bit of yourself. Begin by accepting where you’re at, and the possibilities are endless. You can build yourself into whoever you want to be – the only person in your way is you. The truth is, you’re limitless.

Love, calm, & care –

signature

 

 

Dreaming of Spring

I woke up this morning dreaming of spring. Of taking a bike ride through the city, walking along the river, wearing a sundress. So I put on a tank top, and I floated around my apartment, and I wished. I wished for winter to be over. For the flowers to bloom, and the trees to come back to life, alternately thinking of my empty refrigerator and wishing for a hearty breakfast. And I wondered – why do we always want what we don’t have?

dreaming of spring in winter

Why do I want spring when it’s winter, summer when it’s spring, fall when it’s summer, winter when it’s fall? Why am I jonesing for an eggs benedict when I have an omelet right in front of me? Why is it so hard to be content?

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Maybe it’s societal – we’re conditioned to ache for the next big thing, to always look ahead, wanting the next hit or the next song or the next relationship, even when what we have is perfectly good. Maybe it’s innate. Honestly, I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know – being present is a choice. I am the only one responsible for my own happiness. And while this may feel like a burden at times, it’s kind of a relief. Winter, summer, eggs sunny side up or hard-boiled – it’s up to you to enjoy it. Like it or not, your happiness is your problem.

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Yes, you can complain. You can whine. You can moan and groan and get everyone within earshot to feel bad with you, but what does this really accomplish? Do you feel any better? Maybe you have people to commiserate with you now, but I think you all just feel bad together. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lift people up than drag them down. I’d rather be around joyful people than whiny ones.

Happy does not equal fake. It doesn’t mean pretending everything’s okay and plastering a smile on your face when you feel like crying. True joy comes from internal peace – from accepting that maybe you are broke and tired and hungry and slighted and whatever else – but that won’t stop you from taking a walk through your favorite park and smiling at the way the moonlight hits the trees, or calling your best friend and feeling really grateful that you know him or her, or just looking around you, remembering who you are and what you’ve been through, and finding comfort in the truth that everything will be okay. Maybe it’s winter and you hate it. Maybe you’re going through a breakup and it feels all-consuming. Maybe the waiter got your order wrong. So put on a sweater and make some tea. Have a good cry and go out with your friends. Send that plate back. And smile.

smile

Because contentment comes from within. Not from having the perfect body or the perfect weather or the perfect job – perfection is an illusion. Reality is what’s in front of you. Can you live in it? Can you enjoy it? Exactly as it is, exactly as you are. Take a breath, and look around yourself. You are responsible for your happiness.

you are responsible for your happiness

Love, calm, & care –

signature