One of the toughest questions I’ve ever asked myself was “who am I”. Every time I tried, I dove into the depths of an eerily murky ocean, where anything could be encountered, from the vicious fangs of resentment and the evil clutch of egotism to a few blinding sparks of unconditional love. When opposite and opposing characteristics were equally accurate and insufficient at describing who I felt to be at any given point in time, I found myself struggling to squeeze into predefined boxes of “image”.
Graciously enough, it was around the time of my birthday that I was granted some pointers to more efficient (and much less daunting) self-discovery while reading Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism Without Beliefs. Disciples of Buddhism and students of self-awareness will already be familiar with the principle, but for me, it revolutionised the way I think about who I am. The truth being that I am only what I am at the present moment.
Right now, I’m a woman who is sitting, typing on her keyboard, thinking about how best to string together the words of a thought that she is dying to convey to her fellowship of readers. I am slightly full of buckthorn tea, whose tangy aroma is still discernible on my taste buds, and I feel in my spine that a stretch would be very pleasant, as I’ve been sitting in the same position for a while. I’m the product of a specific environment and a unique history, and part of a larger web of circumstances and relationships, all of which influence what I am at this precise moment.
Starting from here, I can be anything and nothing, and there’s no purpose that would justify putting myself in a box of any kind. It’s an incredibly liberating concept, and yet one that is curiously discordant with today’s popularity of image building and branding. Everywhere I look, people seem to be selling themselves as something or other: via their style of dress, their mode of speech, the appearance of their homes and the design and content of their blogs. At first sight, it might seem intuitive, until you realise that the only constant is change, and that to give space to that continuously flowing river – rolling over rocks and stumbling over falls, joined by tributaries and pouring into lakes – is what allows for peace of mind and ease of heart.
With this thought in mind, the murky ocean that I was so afraid to face becomes a world of marvels – opening up before me its danger and beauty and adventure and love and life – to be probed and understood and enjoyed. Perhaps this isn’t what you wanted to read about, but this is who I am.