Friday, September 17, 2004

all these hats

During those few quiet moments when I don't have to--don't allow myself to--be consumed by one particular demand or the other, I start to realize how many different things I have taken on this semester. For my entire college career, I have been challenging myself to test my limits, but I haven't taken myself up on that challenge until now. Not to say that I've stretched myself beyond my means, but this is the closest I've come. And it's not too bad.

In the past month I have accumulated and attempted to maintain being all these titles: Student. Employee. First Year Leader. Teacher, as a part of the BSU's conversation classes. Member of the English Students Organization. Am I forgetting anything? Oh, yes. Renter. Bill payer, etc. On top of this, I'm also a writer. Yes, blogging is a commitment, hehe. Plus, TDS asked me if I wanted to be a regular writer for the publication, so I've been doing a little tinkering with fiction. Not much.

The above is just a listing of those superficial, temporary roles in which I stand, roles where I can be replaced. Then there are the things that are engrained into the foundation of me: Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend. And in the bedrock of who I am: Child of God.

It is amazing to me that a simple person like me can expect herself to do all these things, and I'm sure my list is a short one. Well, no one's list is short. Everything from "student" to "friend" is so understated. With one tiny word of a title comes a world of responsibility and commitment from many different angles.

I guess this is where I'm going with this: Is a person supposed to have this many things required of him or her? When I didn't have so many things going on, I felt like I should. I think that was a desire to be more productive, like I needed more on my plate in order to not be considered a bum. Now that I have all kinds of responsibilities, well, I do feel responsible. But more productive? Not really. I suppose anyone can take on responsibility, though he or she doesn't have to be responsible. Once you successfully juggle everything, it takes much more commitment, effort, and focus to actually do well in your pursuit. But this seems so impossible, to be fully devoted to everything. So it comes down to either being mediocre at many things or exceptional at a few. But that, too, would require a person to abandon a plethora of responsibilities that are necessary, or at least seem necessary.

So what's the solution? Good question. Well, first, I guess it would be good to specifically identify the problem. That would be the seeming impossibility of being a success at anything when it takes being involved in so much to even be considered successful. I suppose the recurring statement of the oh-so wise sages has been ringing in my ears. "I'm not impressed with a 4.0 student if all they were was a student."

I guess a course of resolution would be first to determine where you find virtue. In mastery or experience? But for me, I think it's deeper than that, maybe a little of both. It seems everything boils down to a set of priorities, a hierarchy. I recall an object lesson about such things. If you want to fit rocks, sand, and water into a bucket, you can't start with the water or the sand. It just won't fit. You have to put the big rocks in first, then sift in the sand to fill the gaps, and allow the water to seep into the tiny crevices of the sand.

It is possible. Being Super-Woman isn't. I can't let my focus get fixed on the little things like sand and water. If I do, the things that matter most will never fit and I'm left without a foundation. And that makes everything else pretty much pointless. Therefore, I'd much rather just where one hat and let everything else be the bells and whistles.

Amendment - 3:51 pm
After reading back over all of that, I think I might disagree with myself. Here lies the beauty of journaling: Writing allows you to examine your own thoughts and then reflect on them. Though I may now have a different outlook that stated above, I have no intention of removing said journal entry. It took me a long time to write that at work, and I won't let it go to waste. Actually, this is just more of an expansion upon what I wrote earlier. Maybe it can serve as some sort of idea development model. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Consider the concept of identity. Does having many responsibilities and roles in life mean that one has many identities? I believe that the answers yes and no could both be argued because both are possible. A person's self could be a culmination of the commitments the person has made, including marital status, occupation, community involvement, etc. A person's self may also be mutable, changing according to the role or combinations of roles being exercised.

Then there is a possible self that exists outside of roles and responsibilities. I think this is what I was trying to depict with my one-hat-with-bells-and-whistles metaphor. There is one self that is free from external mutability. When someone goes on a journey to "find himself," this self is the ideal finding.

My concern is this: How do I view my identity? Do I believe I am made up of all I do? Am I constantly changing? Or is my self something static with external changes? The last is what I am striving for. It is the one I believe is universally true of identity, but of course, this has an exception: rebirth. ["Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!" 2 Corinthians 5:14] This self is not exactly external or internal, not a product of the world or a product of our own. Self-definition is found in God, and though the things of earth exist and impress themselves upon us, they are dim in this light.

Maybe all of this is just an expounded and verbose version of many preachers' phrase "in the world, not of the world." But somehow I feel like Emerson with his "Self Reliance" and "The Over-Soul." And I might have quite unintentionally hit on existentialism. My guess is that I have just enough insight to create for myself chaos. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

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