You won’t find out who you are until it’s too late

But who am I, really?

I’ve been asking myself this question in one form or another as long as I can remember.

I imagine the answer will come to me in a moment of clarity on a long walk on top of a mountain, or in the peace of meditation, or the ecstasy of dancing.

I think I have these fantasies of enlightenment because they have a kind of narrative logic to them.

Or maybe because they are easy. They are accessible. I can imagine being enlightened on a mountaintop, because I can easily imagine being on a mountaintop. It’s the sort of place I find myself regularly.

I don’t imagine discovering my true self while handing out blankets to the homeless, because that would mean a major change to what I do with my spare time. I don’t visualize coming into self-knowledge while delivering a blistering guitar solo, because that would mean dedicating myself to years of practice and gradual improvement. I don’t envision discovering my purpose in the eyes of a lover, because ugh, reasons.

A long time ago I read that we only get to discover our stories in retrospect. Maybe the expectation of finding an arrow pointing the way in a moment of transcendence is a bit like looking for a fortune in a blob of cookie dough.

Sometimes when we’re lucky and we put ourselves out there, we do get to discover what we’re good at. We get to feel a jolt of electricity and feel hidden engines thrum to life deep inside. We can hear demand, if we pay attention: you do that so well… you should do that more often.

As of age 37, I still have no clue who I am. But I know a few things I’m good at. And I can think of a few steps that scare me in a good way.

Maybe that’s the best we can hope for: a hill to climb and the suggestion of a path. Maybe just one path of many, but with the promise of broader vistas higher up. It’s something. It’s enough.

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