by Madeline Laughs
When I was around 15 years old I had numerous meltdowns over this three word question. Who am I? Wondering about what kind of difference I could make in the world and having no idea how to accomplish anything I thought of, I was endlessly frustrated.
I must have given myself a reprieve between the ages of 15 and 25 because I don’t recall ever breaking down over that question while I was in college. Perhaps if I had, I’d have pursued something besides a degree in art.
At 25, I started having those same thoughts again, but now they had taken on some partner questions. Who am I? What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life that makes a damn bit of sense? Around that time I was also reading Thoreau.
“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”
“All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one… characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.”
According to Thoreau, I did not.
Remembering when I changed the way I asked myself that question is not clear, but I did begin to see things in a new light. I discovered that my life was simply that, mine. This revelation changed everything for me. It changed my demeanor, the way I treated other people, the way I treated myself and I began to formulate guidelines within myself for what I would and would not stand for. I developed a code for my life.
Developing a life process and executing it are two different things. The path I needed to take in order to be the person I thought I should be was not an easy one.I had no idea how to get started and people that knew me well were resistant to watch me change.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
I won’t be going into much detail or giving specifics on my own life code because I think as individuals we must all find our own standards of living. We all have our own ideas of the message we want to project out into the world. Only you know what you feel in your heart and only you can live your life. How many burdens will you lift from yourself and how much more will you be able to give of yourself, once you start living for yourself?
That was a righteous discovery for me! I am responsible for living my life. Up to that momentous epiphany, I had lived my life for everyone else, by their rules and for their sakes. Living just for me…how simple is that?
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
Over the years I have shared my take on situations happening in the lives of people that I love. In every circumstance of life, there is a silver lining. Most people in the throes of disaster will never find that, but it is there. I tend to point in that direction as much as possible. I want to learn what I need to know from any episode, find the goodness and move past. I want for my friends and family, what I strive to give myself and that is peace in their minds and in their hearts. If I never do anything of monumental worth in this lifetime, at least I can share my comfort.
No, I am not a PollyAnna with a Goodship Lollypop song for everyone. And yes, occasionally I am as morose and neurotic as anyone else.
“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.”
I am not perfect. And I am perfectly fine with that.
I know myself a little better today than I did when I was 25. I like myself a little better too. But the biggest difference between then and now, is I like the people in my life more. I appreciate them. I am grateful for them. As my views evolved and my life subtlety changed, I didn’t expect to swell with so much love for the human race, but it happened.
Seeking out the good in everyone and in every situation shapes your whole inside. Look for that bright spot long enough, and you’ll find it. On those days when I can not find the bright spot, I have you to show me the way. That is simply good enough for everything in this lifetime.
“Be not simply good – be good for something.”
Who am I?
I am you.
~all quotes are Henry David Thoreau