Tuesday, May 4, 2010

history lesson

By the time I finished grade twelve, I could not wait to get out of my hometown; the city where I’d been born & raised. I loved my family, and I liked my friends, but I had come down with a pretty severe case of Cabin Fever. It was an unquenchable thirst; lessened only by moving out. I had an Image there; I had developed a Personality there; people knew me. It was my home, after all. And yet there was inside of me an insatiable desire to go somewhere else, where nobody really knew who I was. I wanted to be expectationless, if just for a moment. I wanted to start over. I wanted to turn my life into a clean slate, so I could see what it looked like when the “who I ams” were rewritten.

So I left.

I don’t remember exactly how I got there, but I do remember that I went: two provinces over, to college; by myself. These here were my formative years; for the first time ever, I felt like I was beginning to understand and even like who I was. Much to my suprise, I started to find people who liked me, too. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd of hundreds, but everyone else was new and had yet to decide how I should, or would, act. The feeling of being relatively unknown was exhilarating, and I started to see areas of my personality I had not seen before.

Try as I might, however, I couldn’t shake away my roots. While I had left for school hoping I could leave years of awkward social wounds behind me, I was instead forced to reconcile myself with their memories. I-was-who-I-was because of where I had come from, and for no other reason. Each aspect of my personality (both newly formed and old) was fashioned in my history… by my history; carved out by experience or challenge; left to grow stronger in safe keeping and through gracious timing.

We cannot deny the existence of the very things and people that have shaped us.

This is hard for me to say. Like you, I’ve got memories I’d rather ignore. There are certain boys and stuck-up girls I would rather not remember. There are words that I would really, really like to forget. There are moments that have brought me a little too close to despair (or in some cases, right into it). But it is these very things that have played a part in making me who I am now – can I really know myself if I white them out?

I often stop to re-evaluate my life and personality and make sure the “who I ams” are still lining up correctly. This pausing usually requires me to flip back to an earlier page and take a good hard look at the words written there. Now, these words have become a mandatory reference point for moving forward.

In what my friend Nurse Rita calls the “Eat, Pray, Love” syndrome, I think there is often a temptation to sever all ties with the past so we can “really” discover who we are supposed to be from here on in. The trouble with this behaviour, though, is that it’s contradictory. You cannot cut all your roots off in an attempt to live. You’ll die. Just as you can’t refuse to form new roots or you’ll never grow.

I like who you are, and I like who you are becoming. But you and your roots are one and the same, and I’d like it if you didn’t try to cut them off.

...because I am a dweeb, I just Wiki’d “root”. Here’s what they had to say:

The three major functions of roots are

1) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients,
2) anchoring of the plant body to the ground and
3) storage of food and nutrients

Take a second look at number two: roots are the anchor of the plant. They keep the plant grounded.
Take a second look at one and three: the roots feed the plant and store things to feed the plant later.

You’ll notice Wiki didn’t point out, “roots are always pretty”. Because regardless of what they look like, they are essential to the life of the plant. The plant cannot ignore the roots or walk away without them.

We can’t erase our history, and a “fresh start” doesn’t imply that we should. Everything we grow through and from becomes a part of who we are. Everything we see and experience will remind us of something we’ve seen already. If not – if it’s a new experience – then we will subconsciously compare it to our past anyway. How do we know if something is new if we don’t first recollect the things that are old? Carrying baggage or believing lies from our past is entirely unnecessary, but we certainly don’t reject where we came from, either. It is, after all, where we came from; it is who we are; it is why we are.

coming soon to afterthoughts: a long, long, long overdue SHOUTOUT!

1 comment:

Mama said...

You amaze me. I remember the horrible things people at school would say to you and it would shred me to pieces. I would love for them to know you now and read this.