“How’s it going? What’s your name? WHAT DO YOU DO?”
As you might imagine, I’ve had different versions of this conversation probably a hundred times since I’ve been traveling. It’s your run of the mill getting-to-know-you quiz, with the intention of pegging a person down in but a few short words. I have to admit, I’ve probably been guilty of springing this anxiety inducing, judgement trap on people at times, in lieu of having something thoughtful to say. You might be thinking, “Well, it’s an innocent enough question. What’s the big deal?” In my opinion, the big deal is that it is a question we have been CONDITIONED to ask so that we can silently and most times, unconsciously, make assumptions and snap judgements about ones’ beliefs, income, social status, morals and personal character just to name a few.
Normally, I would answer this question by saying that I am a Yoga Instructor and a Massage Therapist. Which is true, but I find that what comes to most peoples’ minds with this response is that I must be a pious hippy vegetarian or something even more perverted. This assumption is a matter of lack of eduction, but still, it’s an assumption that is only half true (I’ll let you guess the part that is true).
As time goes by and I am getting further away from my life in the states, both in proximity and otherwise, I am feeling more and more challenged and perplexed by this question. It has literally been months since I taught a yoga class and even longer since I gave a massage. To answer in my usual way is starting to feel disingenuous. As a person who values authenticity in my life and relationships, this seemingly innocuous conversation starter is begging an even deeper question: Who AM I when the roles that I’ve clung to stop defining me?
So, I’ve stopped answering in my usual way and am thinking more about who I am and what I am doing in this present moment. Right now, I’m a traveler. Right now I’m a hedonistic book store keeper with a penchant for raki fueled philosophical discussion and a gnarly smoking habit.*
Many of us cling to the roles we have been given, either self-imposed or otherwise, because we are afraid that without them, we might just disappear. But you won’t disappear. You will just continue being you. You might even slip in to a more authentic version of yourself when you choose to let go of what may have defined you in the past.
It’s so easy to say and do the things we have always done out of habit. Or even worse, because it’s what our “character” would do. Clinging to a character is an especially easy way to avoid the big questions, like- Who am I? What am I doing? But I encourage you to take the time this week to ponder if the roles in your life still fit, still feel comfortable, and still look good on you. You don’t have to throw the old ones out completely, but it might be time to trade in for something that fits who you are in this moment. By letting go of outdated roles, we make room for a broader definition of who we really are. A definition that supports our incredible complexities so that we can maintain our authenticity while we grow and evolve.
*Living in Greece will do such things to a person.