Who am I? It’s not an easy question to answer. There is no physical portion of the brain or body that we can objectively say contains our identity, yet identity still feels just as real and present as our teeth or lungs.
If anything, our concept of “self” is the most permanent and consistent of any of our characteristics. My physical body parts may deteriorate and need replacement, but as long as I exist, I know I will always be me.
But the answer to “Who am I?” is not as predictable. Every experience morphs us a little in ways we have no way of detecting; through our actions and decisions we unconsciously mold the person we are today into the person we are tomorrow.
Only we have control over this process, for each human life is experienced alone. Each one of us lives in our own universe, virtually impenetrable to anyone but God.
|Catholic Herald Family has invited Jacob Scobey-Polacheck, son of columnist Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck, to offer his perspective on family life alongside that of his mom. Jacob is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.
Read Annemarie’s’s column, “Who is my child meant to be?”
This simple concept astounds me when I start to really think about it. The man that I drove past on the highway, the woman who bagged my food at the grocery store, the child on the chairlift I skied under – each has his or her own life, own bubble, own universe that may overlap with mine once or thousands of times before I die. My life is one of 7 billion, and only I have true control of it. I find this daunting and empowering at the same time.
The reason I think of this is because of a different question I get asked nearly every day: “What’s your major?” The only honest response is that I have absolutely no clue. Choosing in what to major feels like choosing what I want to do with the rest of my life, and how am I supposed to know that? I want to have a passion for something so strong that I need to make it my vocation and life focus, but at this point all I have is an array of interests, the answer to what I want my future to hold remains unanswerable.
So instead, I have shied away from worrying about who I will be and moved my focus toward discovering who I am. What do I really love? What motivates me? What can I do now to make myself a better person in future, near or distant? I’ve found that living in and appreciating the present is the only way to answer such questions.
It’s strange to think about who I was 10 years ago. I was so intellectually and emotionally primitive compared to now. It would have been impossible for me, as an 8-year-old, to imagine how different it feels to think like I do now.
Likewise, I know I will have changed so much by the time I’m 28, but I have no way of understanding what that change will be and what it will feel like. I will probably be confident and secure in my career choice by then. I might even be married.
No, I don’t know in what I want to major. I don’t know what my future holds. But the future will never be clear. Instead, I can only focus on understanding who I am now and figuring out how to improve that person.
I challenge you to do the same. Actively search for your weaknesses and fix them. Find what makes you happy, and do that. Help the people around you whenever possible. Determining who you want to become is a complicated task, but if you’re a better person at the end of the day, even slightly, you’re headed on the right track.
It’s easy to wait for an epiphany, but I’m starting to think that it’s more likely that the understanding from the Holy Spirit will seep in slowly, like water into soil. Instead of waiting for your future, start creating it now.
(Jacob, a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, is the eldest of the four Scobey-Polacheck children.)