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By Rebecca Agocs
Who are we? Are we the product of who we think we are? Are we the sum of what others see in us? The idea that we aren’t necessarily who we think we are is frightening; that idea challenges every ounce of self-confidence and insight we might possess. So I would like to ask again: who are we? I’m not entirely sure any mind can grasp another personality, another being in total… But I’m also not entirely sure any mind can’t.
There are hundreds of theories that attempt to discuss who we are, and how we developed that way. That’s not what I mean when I ask who we are. What I mean relates to the strings that are sewn together to create the material that is, quite literally, the fabric of our being. Do we create this fabric by ourselves? Do our hopes, dreams, opinions, preferences, and personal facts wind their strings together to make us? It has been said before that the opinions of others don’t matter. I’m not entirely convinced that this is the truth, though. I know my personal tendencies – towards what, it doesn’t matter – but what are these tendencies without the characterization offered by others? Surely, that means others opinions do matter.
It has been said that we are guilty by association. It has been said that who we surround ourselves with speaks volumes about us, and what we think of ourselves. That sounds like an over analyzation to me. We surround ourselves with people whose company we enjoy – why does it have to be more thorough than that? You might be happy to sit and watch reruns and hours worth of empty television… and I might be happy to lie under the stars. These are two entirely (not quite) different pastimes, but just because you don’t like to lay in the grass doesn’t mean I don’t like your sense of humor. Or the way you nod your head like you understand everything I say. Does that mean I’m lazy – thanks be to guilt by association – or am I merely basking in your company? Why does there have to be a difference? But there is, so I’m told.
I know what my preferences are, usually. Sometimes my likes and dislikes change with the hour, or even the passing minutes. That, too, though is something that is distinctly me. And on top of it? I like that. I’m a bit of a chameleon, able to fit into the skin I need to wear to be in a certain environment. I like eating most kinds of meat, unless it’s made me sick once and then I won’t touch it again. Maybe I’m a little compulsive, but neurosis is so common now, anyway. I’m not a moody person, but I have enough emotion for hundreds of people over and over again a time or three. I like to have goals, otherwise I feel lost and discontent. And sometimes, I don’t know what I want.
I know what my dislikes are. I’m easily irritated, generally as a result of external stimulus that won’t stop. Nails on chalkboard, chewing, squishing… Even the words make me uncomfortable. I don’t like being the center of attention if I’m in the spotlight for a reason I cannot control; I hate my birthday. I hate when my hair dryer is on high and I get hot while trying to fix my hair. I hate the dentist. See? I know what my dislikes are, and I’m open to facing them for future reversal.
I know what my opinions are. Or if I don’t have any on a subject. I don’t particularly like politics, but our world is so small… how can you not have an interest in your geographical neighbors? I am pro-choice in all things – we have free will, we exercise it. There is nothing else. I believe that I should have a right to govern my own body and that no one – man or woman – can tell me any different. I’m open to believing something else if presented with factual evidence that it is better for me to do so. If there is something I should believe in. But beyond the field of an open mind, I know what I believe before I am ready to let anyone else change my mind.
I know what my habits are. From running chronically five minutes late to always having some colored lip product in my bag, to how the sound of the ocean can always put me to sleep and that I spend ten minutes laying on the floor with my cats before we go to sleep every night. Habits change and shift, but I know them. I’m predictable in some ventures – if I’m in the bath, you bet there is a glass of wine with me. I cook to certain playlists. I always curl my hair a certain direction. I’m prone to Lilly Pulitzer and tortoishell prints, pearls and cowboy boots. I buy any dress I try on if it fits right – my closet is about to explode at all times. I own six different shades of pink lipstick. My clothes always smell like my perfume. I watch the sky every night if I can, reminding me that I’m one of so many. I start hundreds of projects before I ever finish one of them. I know what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what I might do.
I’m aware of what makes me happy. From pristine steak to fruit popsicles, I like the way the things I enjoy taste. I love the smell of the air before rain, and the smell of it afterwards. I love the way a warm rain feels, almost more than I love the silence of the world as it is being coated in a white blanket of snow. I love sleepy animals who want nothing more than to lay beside another warm body, I love the way they let you touch their bellies and they sigh with contentment. I fall in love with every rainy afternoon that I can get lost in a book and a blanket. Just letting the ideas come to me makes me smile. I love watching others find happiness, too because it’s like you give them a part of yourself for them to feel better. And just like that, I feel light all over again.
What strikes me as strange is that maybe this isn’t how another person knows me. Maybe they don’t know that I like fruit in the summer and to be cold when I sleep. Perhaps, instead, they know me as someone who is picky because of her preferences. Instead of knowing me as the girl who has hundreds of ideas spinning in her head, who is falling in love with everything all over again every day and who just had to drive past a farm to see the animals – they see a frivolous girl with her head in the clouds, who is chronically late. Chronically (seemingly) a mess, wearing two different socks. But what if I liked that picture?
It is far wiser to ask, rather than to wait and assume. You might not get answers you like, but I promise it’s far better to know than to wonder. I have always wondered what people saw me as, mainly because I didn’t trust the picture of myself. I didn’t know that until now. I didn’t know that I needed validation from others about the things that I did, because I didn’t trust my judgement. My intuition. And so, I asked. I asked who I was to them – but instead of getting answers in the form of descriptions, I was given characteristics.
Did they not see me by my opinions? By my preferences, my habits…?
They don’t see me as in love with everything, all the time. They saw me as passionate. Maybe even romantic, in the way that I was, and will always be, in love with everything. They didn’t see me as the sum of my experiences – rebellious, mischievous, and carefree were words used. Not once was I called crazy in the neurotic, psychotic way. In only the most endearing way possible; I would never expect anyone to say I’m not high maintenance. I might be easy going, but there is so much of me, so much to me, that I wouldn’t ever believe I’m not high maintenance. I’m not the way I listen quietly or the empathy that floods me regardless of their story – I’m loyal and warm. Instead of bubbly, a term I don’t particularly care for, I’ve been characterized as jubilant in the most infectious of ways. And if I could bring happiness and light and goodness to anyone, I wouldn’t mind being called infectious. I’ve been awarded with the words bravery and strength; I don’t know where I found these things or how they saw them in me … But maybe there’s a side of me I have yet to get to know.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure if I am the things I know I am to be or the things I think, or the things I feel. By hearing the way others see me, even if briefly, I’m reminded that perhaps it isn’t possible for another to know you entirely. And then again, with their kind words… maybe it is.
So who am I? Am I the sum of what I know me to be? Or am I passionate, intrepid, infectious, romantic, and adventurous? Maybe I can be all of those things – maybe we are all of the adjectives used on us because we can find truth to them in the things we know about ourselves. I guess, then, maybe it’s time to trust myself.