Who you really are???

did you really say that

By Kenneth Justice

~ “Honestly Kenneth, some days I’m just not sure who I am…”

That is what a young man said to me at coffee recently. At twenty four years old he graduated college earning a good degree, he followed the career path set out for him, but he’s now questioning himself in relation to who he is and what he wants out of life.

Have you ever woke up and wondered who you are? For some of us it may seem like a strange question but for many others it is something they ask themselves quite often;

—) I’ve known a number of women who devoted their lives to mothering and when the youngest child turned eighteen…they felt lost and didn’t know who they were

—) I’ve known men and women who hit retirement age and once they stopped working at their career; they didn’t know what to do with themselves

—) I’ve known a lot of people who after graduating college found that the career path they were pursuing wasn’t what they thought it would be or simply wasn’t satisfying enough

Figuring out who we are is one of the central most important issues we will deal with in our lives.

Finding ourselves is arguably one of the most discussed concepts in relation to today’s young adults; countless books and essays are being written about millennial’s (those born between 1977-1996) and the major lack of identity that so many of them (us) struggle with in relation to work, career, relationship and other integral components of life.

For many years religion was a an integral component within our culture used to imbue that ethereal sense of significance within young adults as it connected them to a sense of purpose, meaning, and identity. However, in recent years the percentage of people who feel burned out by religion (i.e. often Christianity) has increased exponentially as many young adults say they feel that modern religions are either boring, irrelevant, intolerant, sexist, or all of the above.

Since I started writing this blog earlier in the year much of my time has been spent ‘finding my voice’. Sure, I’ve been writing since I was very young….. But connecting what I love to write about and what people want to read, can in many ways be a herculean task. There are many days that I write extremely lengthy articles and when I get to the finish line I realize that I’m probably the only person interested in reading about the particular subject. Yesterday for instance I wrote a 4000 word paper on genocide in relation to bible… and while I enjoyed writing the piece….I wondered; who wants to actually read what I have to say about genocide and religion; probably nobody!

Finding our voice and our identity is compounded by the out-of-whack societal problems we have to deal with in Western Culture. Take for instance the sad fact that sex sells; I know that if I write about sex I’ll get a 50% increase in traffic for the day as opposed to discussing the subject of identity. Thus, all of us our faced with the problematic issue of pragmatism; if we sacrifice our integrity we can get ahead. Not that there is anything wrong with discussing sex….but talking about nothing except sex day-after-day merely to get more traffic to my site seems disingenuous.

If we sacrifice our integrity we can get ahead;

—-) Beautiful men and women can use nothing but their looks to get ahead

—-) Media outlets can get more people to watch their shows and read their magazines if they focus on trivial celebrity gossip

—-) Bloggers can attract more readerships by writing about only controversial subjects

I’m not suggesting those things are bad to do; there’s nothing inherently wrong with a beautiful person being a model… is there? But rather I’m pointing out the fact that it if we aren’t careful, we can end up letting society and those around us dictate who we are; rather than finding out who we are on our own.

I’ve always been fond of the story about a famous NFL Running Back who made millions of dollars playing American Football but never liked playing the sport. Numerous articles were written about him that said he only pursued the sport because he was good at it and because everyone told him he should do it…..but for him; being a football player wasn’t who he was. When he cut his career short many of his fans were furious….they only knew him as a football player; they couldn’t understand that was simply not who he really was.

As I go down the final stretch of my first year blogging I’ve been asking myself the simple question; who am I as a writer? I know what I want to write about but how do I find that delicate balance between writing about what I enjoy and connecting it with what people enjoy reading? How do I prevent myself from fading to gray and becoming nothing more than another irrelevant blogger?

As with so many other areas of life it’s important to stay fresh and current;

—) For a woman who devoted a large portion of her life to being a career mother it’s important for her to find a new passion in life

—) For the person retiring from a thirty year career it’s vital that they develop new passions that carry them into their later years of life

—) For the young adult who graduated from college but is no longer interested in their career, it’s necessary for them to find the balance between the responsibilities of life (paying bills for instance) and finding whatever it is that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose.

While some of these thoughts may seem rather meek, for me they are a big deal because as I draw near to the beginning of my second year of blogging I want to increase the depth of the subject matters that I deal with while at the same time not risk losing my readership……I want to continue to explore who I am as a writer without alienating myself from the culture.

As for the moment, I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and keep thinking about who I am….


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

75 replies

  1. Kenneth, I recently found your blog and I thoroughly enjoy your insights. You have a sincerity and personal writing style that is very appealing. Thank you for your contributions.

    As an aside, I am one of the few people who would enjoy reading your paper on genocide and the Bible :-). I am not sure what that says about me but feel free to make it available online.

    W. Ockham

  2. Sure, like I didn’t have enough questions running around in my mind…great post though! LOL

  3. That 4000 word paper on genocide in relation to the bible was written for you. I believe that what writers have to do is write. Some may read it. Maybe the ideas you investigating in writing it will resurface someday in another form that many people will be interested in reading. You know..just be you. Or more accurately become into yourself. I can’t see how you can go wrong.

  4. Nice piece; asks a lot of interesting questions. The thing about integrity is that it’s often not a yes/no questions – the problem is that I think everybody starts out sacrificing a little bit, then a little more, then more still etc. At some point you can reflect and say ‘wow, I’ve come a long way since x,y,z’ but because the change was gradual you never felt like you were sacrificing much, and you would have never sacrificed as much as you did if you had to do it all at once. It’s what I’d call a ‘salami problem’ where your values or integrity gets compromised one, palatable slice at a time. Eventually though, the whole salami is gone. (The salami nomenclature is inspired by the first episode of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’… if there are any fans of this series amongst those who read this comment – she said optimistically.)

    • Iarxiv,

      I really like your comments…..so your thinking that people don’t simply wake up one day and say “today I will sacrifice my integrity”…but rather that it’s a much more gradual and incremental process……

  5. A wise man or woman knows there is a time in life for everything. Where you are in your time of life is what you should focus on and enjoy the person you have become. .A wise man also knows that no one knows the future. However time flies by when you are having fun at every age.

  6. Who am I? . . . . I am the guy who will risk his life to save you from a burning building . . . . I am the also the guy who just might set it on fire if you piss me off enough . . .

    I am an enigma . . . even to myself.

  7. Always have a hobby and a career. When you have achieved goals for life and others , take some time out and enjoy what makes you feel alive..

  8. if wanting to explore other areas, it can work in one blog with tabs; or there is merit to creating another blog for other areas. I definitely don’t post about one main theme — although, I focus mostly on spiritual and science topics and attempt sometimes to blend these. I don’t blog for other people really — but I care what readers think and I prefer getting comments and feedback; so, I do think about how a post might be appealing or not.
    I’d guess that most people that read your posts don’t often comment — but if coming back frequently, probably do so because they get something to think about here.
    I’d like to see your blog continue along with you presenting what is interesting and sometimes puzzling for you.
    I rarely made comments and reblogs – so far – here. However, that is possibly because your blog is a personality — you. I never want to make comments that ignore it that the author is presenting a point of view — in your case, the posts generally don’t call me out to make a comment. In this case, I see one — my advice is keep the blog on your experiences.
    I just hope you are finding life rewardingly enjoyable. If your feelings go sour for more than a day or two, then you went off track — meantime it all seems good from my perspective out here.
    ~ Eric

  9. I’m also intrigued by your paper on genocide and the Bible. As I see it, the central conflict of much of the Old Testament is that God commanded the Israelites to kill every person living in Canaan but they didn’t do it and so are constantly being “corrupted” by those people. That’s an awfully gruesome history for two major world religions. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • Dude, the genocide and ethnic cleansing that is discussed in the bible is extremely gruesome….since I’m a Christian its an issue that has troubled me for many years

      Perhaps I will publish it elsewhere along with all my other more academic stuff….just gotta find somewhere to post it 🙂

  10. Identity is huge and a chief reason why I’m anonymous.

  11. You give some great and very real examples of losing one’s personal identity. Something that is not difficult to do when one is young. After all, most have spent the first twenty years of life trying to figure out how to get along with others, testing out different ideas and finding out which ones we like and which ones we don’t. As early as the age of four a child is faced with choices…do I want to play super hero today, or go fishing? All of these daily activities and the choices connected to them help shape who a person becomes. It’s natural that one would pursue those things for which they have received praise…but as mentioned with the football player…is it the child’s goal as well?

    I guess the best thing a parent or a friend could do for a person is to find out what activities make a person light up and to encourage them to pursue those things…by cultivating the natural passions, a person is more inclined to find themselves. Rather than “fitting in” maybe we should encourage others to walk in their own footsteps.

    A blogger friend of mine heylookawriterfellow wrote an excellent post called Not Very Sporting which encapsulates his father’s experience when addressing his son’s interests as a child. It’s a great read and aligns quite well with what you have written today.

    • Mrs P,

      Awesome comments……”do I want to play super hero today or go fishing” lol funny but so true and a great example.

      And I’m totally with you on parents helping their children out in developing passions….I wonder how many parents actually do this?

  12. I guess many of us don’t know who we really are or what we want out of life.

    My 86 yr old Father and I had a honest to goodness chat about life only a couple of weekends ago and he confided that he always thought he was a failure. I was shocked. I quickly told him all the things I’d always admired in him as a Father (and as a Man). I told him about all the things which made him a success in my eyes. I told him how important it was to be happy with whatever you do and not judge yourself by comparing to what others did or said. I assured him that we are all unique human beings and have unique talents that are an integral part of the community. It doesn’t have to be money or material possessions. He told me about some of his failings and lack of confidence in his early working life. I felt sad to think that he had bottled this up all his life. I had this strange feeling that he had never shared these thoughts before.

    We can spend forever searching for that elusive satisfying magic moment or goal, not understanding that it’s often right in front of us. I feel as though I only found myself about 3-4 years ago. I finally got to do something that was creative and enjoyable. I always ‘toyed’ with ideas or hobbies or jobs. Education, Money & Career success were never on my agenda. They were my Mother’s dreams. I just wanted to be Happy and Content with whatever came my way. I wanted to travel and explore (the world). I wanted to feel at home wherever I found myself. I liked challenge and mystery, just as much as I liked simple, repetitive routine. But mainly, I liked doing it my way (not my parents, peers & friends way). I always wanted to be different and now, finally, I realised that I always was different, right from the start (of my life). I just kept lying to the world and hiding behind a facade of parental dreams.

    So, write from the heart. Write about what you feel passionate about. Tell the world (or blogasphere) what fills your mind. Write for yourself….and if in doing so, you find a captive audience who want to read your words and share your passions, be generous in your sharing.

    Be honest and open and true to your heart’s desire, not what other people desire. Don’t be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • Vicki,

      Wow dude….what a personal and touching story….you left me wondering if after the conversation with you did your father feel more encouraged by what you shared with him?

      My dad died in 2008 and the last day that he was conscious we spent a couple hours talking and he shared two straight hours of things he’d never told me before….it was really chilling because he basically walked me through a recap of his life filling in big pieces that he’d never shared with me up till then……I suspect that as people get older they really start reevaluating their entire life

      Thanks for your advice and comments….it all touched my heart quite a bit 🙂

  13. I am nothing more than me wearing a dusty coat. Holding my memories and decisions. making me stronger as life keeps adding its dust and weight. Making me hunch on my old days heavy from all I carry with me, my knowledge, my life.

  14. This post made me smile! I am in my mid-60s and STILL don’t know who I am, but know quite a bit about myself. I’m still trying to work out what I will do when I am ‘grown-up’. We are all different things at different times, its a voyage of discovery and lots of fun but with some dark moments too. Isn’t being a human wonderful?!!

    • Herschelian,

      I love the energy of your comment….I bet that is what your sons love about you; that even though youre in your sixties you are still discovering yourself and looking forward to every new experience

  15. What doesn’t kill us makes us who we are. If we are honest with ourselves we all know who we really are, it is just getting ourselves to admit it. The reason we lie to ourselves and say we don’t know who we are is because it is easier than admitting that who we really want to be may not be a realistic possibility depending on the hand life has dealt us. Who we want to be may not be socially acceptable, fiscally probable or comfortable. Becoming who we want to be often requires hard work and even then you still need to convince other’s that you are who you are and not who they want you to be. It’s a difficult path to walk but the ones who do will usually tell you it’s worth it.

    • “who we want to be may not be socially acceptable”

      Dude that is a really intense comment….I totally agree…..when I wrote the article I didn’t even have that in my mind but it really expands the topic to a myriad of possibilities…..

  16. Who am I? What is accepted or good and what is not? What else is there to do around here?

  17. It is my experience that many people grow up being told they are dumb, smart, a troublemaker, a future doctor, etc. Their identity issues come from staying stuck in a role their families gave then and they either don’t realize they’re in, or are afraid to break free of that identity. It takes guts to tell your loved ones, hey, don’t treat me this way, that’s not really who I am. Kudos to those who break free.

    • Br4ceyourself,

      So true……I bet what you’ve pointed out applies to a really high percentage of people…I wonder how many people really have the emotional strength to break free from that…or I wonder if in some circumstances it’s okay to accept what the parents say…..

  18. Really thought provoking. I like this post, K. Wrote about the same thing not too long ago. I believe that at the bottom of identity crisis lies the intuitive knowledge that we are meant for more… more than a job, more than a social life, more than a title. The temporal things in life satisfy to a degree, but don’t fill the void in our souls. Only GOD can do that. Not religion. GOD.

    • Good question. Who I really am?
      As I explore through my life, I discover my self, my biggest adventure. Few more puzzles to complete the picture of me, still undiscovered treasure.
      God loves us for who we are, not because of what we do.
      Thanks for reminding me: Don’t let the past failure stopping you find the key of your future, which is the real You.

    • “few more puzzles to complete the picture of me: still undiscovered treasure”

      I love that sentence…..I think that is what we all hope for also 🙂

  19. Human being can be a very complex subject. Sometimes we know who we really are but do not want to accept our self, and sometimes we love who we are but could not show to society or even to loved ones as it is not acceptable for them, human mind and heart plays a lot and individuals keep trying to discover themselves.

  20. Kennet, you got deeply with this one. Some of us are robots… others have time for existential questions. I think people are driving by feelings or reasons.
    I do have regrets but I’m learning to be content with me… today.
    So whatever drives you is who you are. And you are talking about a genocid…looks like I want to go outside unclothed. I won’t do it, it’s not my style, neither on my 18s and I have a reputation to be kept… for me and not for the others. Do I make any sense?

    • “…but I’m learning to be content with me…today”

      I love that sentence Dana….I wonder if there are specific things that help you in learning to be content?

    • It’s not an universal recipe, Kenneth but works in my case. Little things make me feel utile, opening my parents door…, practising English with a little girl, skating with another beautiful girl or with a proud 10 years old boy ( he doesn’t want my hand 🙂 and wherever gets in my way…a little from everything fills my nonsense, smilling.

  21. I think back to my developmental psychology studies during my teacher training/schooling. You remember I said I’d had a lot of trouble relating to my peers because they tended to talk about work. I remember the textbook saying that, that people in my age group tended to form their identity that way.

    But speaking more broadly, I think I can think back to what the textbook said about each of the age groups. What you describe– I think it’s when people get stuck, both in making the transitions, and also in getting too bound by those expectations… especially when life pushes towards alternate options. I certainly didn’t expect to fail student teaching, be pushed out the door, and start a family descending into disability benefits.

    • Jacklumen,

      I totally feel you…..when you mentioned going from student teaching to where our at in your family life I can totally relate. So many of us have to deal with the circumstances that life has dealt us and in the midst of those circumstances figure out which direction we can move in……in my own life I’ve taken on responsibilities I never could of foreseen and those responsibilities have forced me to alter certain goals and directions I would have made otherwise

  22. Love your thoughts and your blog. It’s this kind of stuff that our culture really needs…the ability to actually take a look at ourselves in the context of our relationships with other people, almost outside of the culture…it’s influences, expectations. It’s good to make ourselves real with each other, starting from within. Have a great day.

    • Avelinerants,

      “it’s good to make ourselves real with each other”

      Totally agree….one of the goals in my writing is always to write the way I talk when I’m discussing something serious; to keep it real :). (although when I’m goofing around in real life I don’t necessarily talk the way as I do when I’m being serious…but this blog isn’t really a goofing around kind of blog :). )

    • Fantastic piece of writing. I thought it was really insightful and interesting. It really sums up the way society seems to be headed at the moment, with a cheap exchange of filling time with all sorts of rubbish at the cost of overlooking the important things in life.

  23. Kenneth I’d love to read that article on Christianity & genocide.

  24. I’m pretty much in this road… Finished two courses and nothing.. But I know what I’m supposed to.. It has a very tight grip and keeps me on it’s path.. Me, my very distracted self.. Thanks for this..

  25. Identity is a difficult thing for us today. I love Henri Nouwen’s understanding of the 3 lies that most of us work with as we try to figure it out. I am what I have. I am what I do. I am what others say about me.

    Becoming aware of those lies and how they fall short is a great place for us to start.

    • ” I love Henri Nouwen’s understanding of the 3 lies that most of us work with as we try to figure it out”

      I read a number of Nouwen’s stuff years ago….its been awhile but I recall enjoying it 🙂

  26. As an older person beginning to blog these questions are heavy on my mind. Thank you for the encouragement to find the balance but still keep true to my heart.

  27. Ah, to explore what you want to explore but not alienate those who follow – it’s a good problem to have as it signifies that you have established a readership! Think about it like you would in exploring unfamiliar foods – going all-in is not likely to sit well with your taste buds or your stomach. Your best bet is to incorporate a new taste into a familiar meal here and there to gauge how it will sit with you. Sometimes having a full meal of a different style can be refreshing and inspiring! Other times, you might regret it the next day. But either way, you are becoming accustomed to the new styles of food and better understanding how you might ultimately incorporate them into your regular diet.

    • ” Your best bet is to incorporate a new taste into a familiar meal here and there to gauge how it will sit with you. Sometimes having a full meal of a different style can be refreshing and inspiring! Other times, you might regret it the next day. ”

      I love the analogy Jason….especially because I LOVE food……for a long time the only things I ever watched on television were food shows; Chef Ramsay, Robert Irvine, the food network…..and when someone uses a food analogy I’m instantly hooked 🙂

    • But the question is, after watching all those food shows, how is your cooking?

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