"Who am I?"
Three simple words formulate the most fundamental question in all of human existence. We desire to understand ‘self’ - to understand purpose - as though such knowledge will somehow bring order to the chaos of thought and emotion… and perhaps a sense of place - for we all desperately want to belong… somewhere…
"Who am I?"
The search for an answer can drive us through an entire lifetime - maybe more. We analyze, break down, scrutinize, microscopically examine. We look for trends, commonalities, make comparisons, and attempt to derive a formula that can be applied to MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL. And sometimes it feels so close - this answer… so close… perhaps just around this very next corner… and then POOF… it's gone. Was it ever even there within your grasp? You are frustrated. Demoralized. Maybe even angry. "Who am I?". "WHO CARES?!", you respond to yourself, quieting that nagging little voice inside your head for a blissful 17 seconds if you're lucky. And then it reappears again… along with the compelling need to find the answer…
It seems to me that demanding this answer from yourself like handing Leonardo Da Vinci the eight-color watercolor paint set you had when you were a kid and demanding the Mona Lisa. It can't be done. The tools aren't right. The human experience does not have within it the means to measure or express who we are. The who is too dynamic… constantly shifting, not bound by the laws of cause and effect, action and reaction, yin and yang… who cannot be defined in the concrete terms we seem to need.
"Who am I?"
It's the wrong question.
Each of us has this unique set of 'components' within ourselves - kind of like a big can of Tinkertoys. Every skill, trait, talent, strength, weakness, experience, life lesson, thought, emotion, habit, reaction, etc. is a little Tinkertoy piece in that can. And you put those pieces together in countless ways all the time to form the essence of ‘you’. Sometimes your structure may be big and strong… other times it's smaller or more fragile. You may forget about some of the pieces for awhile, only to rediscover them when you dig way down deep into the can. Maybe you use a few pieces to build a tool that helps you to build something else… or perhaps you trade a few pieces with the kid next door for a Lincoln Log and a couple of Legos, 'cuz man, then you could build something really cool. And once in awhile, maybe you just grab handfuls of pieces and hurl them across the room at your little sister's head because that just felt like the thing to do.
"Who am I?"
You 'are' every single bit in that Tinkertoy can, and all of the infinite and wonderfully indescribable ways they can be combined.
There is marvelous freedom here, for you won't find an instruction sheet anywhere. There is no blueprint, no magical formula for the “right” combination of pieces. What works today may not work tomorrow, and what seemed like an absolutely brilliant idea in theory may turn into a disaster when given form. There are no guarantees - but there ARE endless possibilities... if you’re daring enough to pop the top off of that can and have a go at whatever you find inside. Tinkertoys are not, after all, a ‘spectator sport’...
...you have to be willing to dump the can out on the floor and make a really big mess – how else will you know what you have to work with?
...you have to be willing to try new and different things, leave some familiar pieces behind sometimes, and not be afraid to fail – how else will you know what you’re capable of?
...you have to be willing to break apart something that you’ve made and love (or maybe what you’re just used to), for the thrill (and uncertainty!) of discovering something new – how else will you grow?
...and when all is said and done, you have to pick up the leftover pieces and get them back into the can - because NO ONE likes to clean up after someone else’s Tinkertoys.
You will learn, rather quickly, that your Tinkertoy pieces are not perfect. Out of the can, some bits will have a bit of a bend to them or won’t fit quite right with other pieces. They’ll get a little chipped and splintered with use – and they can break. You could, of course, leave them in the can and protect them from anything that might ‘change’ them... or you can keep some tape and paint on hand when a little TLC is needed. And even a piece that is broken beyond repair can find a new function if you’re willing to think outside the box... or ‘can’, I should say.
Others will have opinions about what you construct. They may not like your little splintery bits, or think you should build something else. Perhaps they will even try to rearrange your Tinkertoys with their own hands. Don’t let it happen. You alone are the master of your experience... no one knows those pieces better than you, and no one else can fully understand your need. These critics... they have their own Tinkertoys, and there are splinters there too.
While your can of Tinkertoys comes with a tremendous amount of freedom, it also carries a tremendous amount of responsibility. You and you alone are responsible for what you craft. You choose the little bits to pull out of the can and you choose how you put it all together - therefore you are responsible for the end result. You can choose to build something beautiful and/or useful - or you can choose to build something ugly and/or destructive. Each may, in fact, have it's appropriate time and use - but each carries with it a unique set of results and ramifications. Before you put those pieces together, you must ask yourself if you are truly prepared to handle the outcome. If the answer is no, then you'd be better to build something else.
“Who am I?”
Well, I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa... but I’m darn crafty with a good can of Tinkertoys.