As I rapidly approach the end of a year of ‘lasts’, I find myself thinking a lot about identity. On paper it is easy to say I am Sarah, I play field hockey, I sing, I dabble in theater, I love math, I can (sort of) speak Spanish...and the list goes on. But none of that actually tells you who I am. Of course, I could also give you more personal information like I’m an only child (I’m not weird I swear) and my Myers-Briggs test results are INTJ.
From all of this information, you might be able to sketch a fuzzy picture of me, but it still isn’t as accurate as an HD photo. Here’s the truth: I don’t know what the picture actually looks like either. Even in my whole (short) life, I haven’t been able to figure it out.
When my brain starts to go down this path, the music lover in me comes out and I can’t help but think of the song Season of Love from Rent. I know the song is talking about a year, but seriously how do you measure a person? Daylights? Sunsets? Midnights? Cups of Coffee? (I think I might break the scale if we’re talking coffee)
In my AP Literature class, we were reading Train Dreams, a novella by Denis Johnson, and a passage spurred my train of thought once again.
"Meanwhile Robert Granier had passed his thirty-fifth birthday. He missed Gladys and Kate, his Li'l Girl and Li'l Li'l Girl, but he'd lived thirty-two years a bachelor before finding a wife, and easily slipped back into a steadying loneliness out here among the countless spruce."
The passage was easy to skim over, but I got stuck on it. It was right at the beginning of the novel before many character details appear, and I thought it was a great characterization of Robert. The passage actually splits Robert into two: the husband earning a living for his wife and daughter and the bachelor hungry for experiences in a lonely terrain. The contrast forces me to ask the question, 'Who is Robert Granier?'
As I read on I was constantly asking what defines Robert Granier. Was it the work he did, the people he loved, or something else entirely? The simple answer: I don’t actually know. The more complex one, however, would be that Robert Granier is a different person everywhere he goes. Perhaps who we are is not actually defined by ourselves but the context in which we find ourselves.
On the field I am a goalie, on a stage, I perform, and alone in my room I am...well, who knows? Maybe in a foreign land, I will be the only one who can translate for my friends and back at home I am the only person who likes math. To strangers, I appear scary, intimidating, but my friends know me as an entirely different person.
For now, this is the best answer I can come up with for myself. I don’t think I will ever truly know who I am, but I might be able to look back and figure out who I was. Maybe who I am is someone in between who I was and who I want to be. Maybe.