Thursday, November 2, 2017

Identity

How do you figure out your identity when it keeps changing?  Who I am today is different then who I was yesterday.  Each day I have experiences that continue to shape my personality and attitudes.  Some people seem to know who they are from childhood.  Others never figure out who they are.     
Professionally, when people first meet me, they tend too refer to me as doctor.  They do it out of respect for the work I did to earn a Ph.D.  But I always ask them to call me William.  When they question me, I explain that the doctor title was the result of a few years of study and an extensive research paper.  “William” was the result of a lifetime of looking inside and figuring out who I am.  I worked a lot harder on becoming William than I did becoming doctor.  
Repeatedly in season six of Game of Thrones, they ask the question, “Who are you?”   It started me thinking about my own identity.   Who I am is the most important thing I bring to my clients in my office.  If I don’t know who I am, its difficult to help others figure out who they are.  Then again, knowing who you are is important in intimate relationships.  
Growing up I didn’t know who I was.  I was probably as lost as the next person, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  I didn’t have an identity.  I was whatever my parents, teachers and friends said I was.  This didn’t get any better in adolescence.  When I would begin a new relationship, I would immediately lose myself into the “us.”  I didn’t know how to hold on to me, because I was so poorly defined.  
I know what this looked like.  It would be Friday night and we would be deciding what we would eat and I would keep repeating, “What ever you want.”  I didn’t have enough substance to say, “I want Chinese, or Italian,” or anything specific.  I wanted whatever she wanted.  The person that they were initially attracted to got lost.  
It was all about my insecurity.  I wasn’t valuable enough to myself to think that someone would stay with me if I really let them see me.  So I would hide behind, “You choose.  I’m good with whatever you want tonight.”  
Successful relationships are usually found through each person growing and finding out who they are and then being themselves with the other person.  It took me a long time to figure out who I was.  But I know one major contribution.  
I was a Freshman at Monroe Community College.  I don’t remember which class it was, but the professor was taking role.  I responded when he called out my name, “Bill Boylin.”  I had been “Billy” all my life.  I never really thought much about my name.  The girl behind me tapped me on the shoulder.  She was very pretty with jet black hair and beautiful brown eyes.  She looked me square in the face and confidently informed me that I was not a Bill, I was a William.  The name stuck like glue.  It was as if it was tattooed on my forehead.  From then on, I was William.  She was right, that was a significant part of my identity.  To this day I only have a couple of friends who call me “Billy.”  Predominately they are friends from my childhood who knew me when I was Billy.  

That girl and I almost got married.  We were deeply in love.  We did get engaged after we finished college.  But I wasn’t ready.  It would have been a disaster, because I didn’t know who I was and I was still too immature to maintain a relationship.  Another step in figuring out who I was happened when I realized I wasn’t ready to get married.  We talked and ended the engagement, but not without fighting and tears.  She helped me in figuring out who I was.  All those wonderful relationships I had as a young man each contributed to my discovering my identity.  
                 Today I have a pretty good idea who I am.  I'm just not sure who I will be tomorrow. 

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