What we are and what we're not


Yesterday, I went to reread my copy of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. I hadn't opened this book in a couple of years, but its been on the forefront of my mind lately and yesterday finally felt like the right time. To my surprise, several photos were hidden behind the cover, photos of me as a wee lass that I have no recollection of putting there. My guess is that my father hid them, to surprise me in just the way they did - when I was least expecting it.

One of the photos might be the most incredible, inspiring and simply bad ass photos of me ever taken. I'm about five or six years old, stark naked, jumping fearlessly into the ocean with my fist raised while wearing my floaties, as I was not a great swimmer at the time. It didn't shake me one bit. Just the jump, fist raised, probably shouting something - the child version of "Geronimo!".


I sat on the couch, photo in hand, smiling. This photo encompasses everything I wish to embrace about myself, stripped down to its core. The fierceness, the fearlessness, the fire. The sheer joy of jumping, fist raised, naked. It got me thinking.

Maybe as children, we were already complete. We were firemen and astronauts, we were actresses and robots, we were the mothers, the fathers and the children all rolled into one. Then we were taught denial, taught to suppress and impress, to choose, taught to doubt our abilities and our purpose. We were taught to live after someone else's standards and to only be one part of ourselves. Because that's the world we live in and need to fit into, no matter how awkwardly. And I agree to some of that - we do need to learn social codes and ques, standards and respect - but there is more to it than that.

While at university studying social sciences, the class often spoke of "the true self" and all it's facets, always implying the facets were somehow less 'you' than the 'true you'. To me, that would be like saying that some branches on a tree is less part of that tree than others. Sure, some are smaller, less developed, almost broken off from wind and tear. Nonetheless, they are part of the same tree, just as much as the branches that were nourished and grew stronger.

I wrote about labels a while back, how we use them to define our value and purpose. I believe we are too quick to label, and hold on to our labels too feverishly. As much as they help us - they hinder us. By putting too much emphasis on what we are, we inevitably also define what we are not. I think we should give ourselves more elbow room, more room to explore.

An example: I was always a tomboy. Prided myself on it, as it was one of the things I found made me special, unique. I couldn't figure out dresses and rolled my eyes at makeup. "I won't be conformist!" Fair enough. Almost a decade goes by, until someone encourages me to try. Reluctantly, I do. Somewhere in the midst of this, I discover that I really enjoy it - be it I'm good at it or not. Having told myself for so long that these were things that didn't go well with "who I am", just to realize the only person who had been deprived of something she enjoyed... was myself. I got too caught up in being what I thought I needed to be that I forgot to sit back and discover who I can actually be.

As we grow older, our labels seem to become unyielding, truths of character. They become unforgiving. It gets increasingly harder to try new things, mainly because we've gotten used to being good, even great, at the things we're used to doing. Trying something new usually means that you're not very good at it, which is scary and somewhat disheartening - also, it might not be something that "you do". I say try it anyways. I say go for it. I say, allow yourself to jump naked into the ocean - fist raised - for the sheer joy of doing it.

Rediscover yourself every day. 

From The Dice Man

"If I wasn't consistently a glutton, dressed haphazardly and ironic, consistently practiced psychoanalysis, career and publications I would never get anything done - and who would I be? If I sometimes smoked one way [...], sometimes another, sometimes not at all, dressed differently, was nervous, serious, ambitious, lazy, lewd, ascetic - what would I be? It is how you choose to limit yourself that defines who you are. A person without habits and consistency - and consequently boredom - isn't human. She's insane."