Don’t Wait to be Yourself

I am on that side of my life where the years from my birth are much further away than the ones from my expiration date.

The 20th Century novelist Ralph Ellison said, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” I think a lot of people feel there’s a human-being owner’s manual out there for ‘free’ with every bit of discovery bullet-pointed and aligned; that there’s a book or a masterclass or a YouTube video that says ‘here’s the key to life … now subscribe to hear the rest!’

So much of it is a crock and at the heart of it is this notion: just who are you? Not what messages, sycophants, and salespeople want you to be for them, but who you are?

I’ve reached an age where I’m beginning to build more on who and why I am. Being an introvert. Loving baseball. Singing out loud with my wife. Throwing a vulgarity into a conversation that might not otherwise have one. Helping people. Servitude. A myriad other things. I’m fine with all of them.

Not to get too far up my own ass with this, but that is the brilliance of life. We are never, ever one thing at any particular time. Just because I test INTJ on Myers-Briggs doesn’t mean I am those things all the time. In the same way, earning a perfect score on the Facebook IQ test doesn’t punch a ticket to MIT. We shift and morph and grow and evolve.

Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are. — Malcolm Forbes

I suppose I mention all this to say there’s not a lot of time to be you before heart disease, stroke, cancer or a shark deposits you in the firmament. Further, the thing that will kill you does not care about calendars or clocks. There will be no 15-minute reminders. As someone wise said, the days are long, but the years are short.

None of the (some well-intended) motivational stuff matters unless are already motivated, and only then as reminder or course correction. Through years past, I made a lot of excuses, felt a lot of frustration, and gnashed my teeth over a LOT of dumb shit. I better understand now decisions are a privilege, and I approach each one now with more caution. I’ve become more conscious of the ‘sum of me’ with age.

For decades, I have explored the tip of this iceberg and in recent years, I’ve finally begun to get under the surface. It’s not accurate and probably never will be. Reality is funny that way. It hasn’t always been kind to me or others. It needs constant refinement. I continually align my sight picture with reality and it’s not always right, but, I’m here now and feel pretty good about where it’s headed. 

Malcom Forbes said, “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” That, and the RDJ quote I’ve tacked on here may be the perfect starting point for someone to go, ‘Hold the fuck up.’

Whatever side of life your on, I hope you’re doing do whatever you need to do when you’re able to explore and come to grips with who and why you are. To Ellison’s notion, I’m not free, but I can see freedom in the distance.

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