Hi readers, thanks for continuing to visit my blog or for reading this posting arrived into your email.
By this time I am settled in Manila, Philippines starting my latest travel adventure. I decided to begin this adventure in the Wanderers Guest House in the city of Malate (Metro Manila is a collection of cities, and Malate is one of the most central). Really it is a hostel where I will have my own room but will be able to meet fellow travellers, hopefully Filipino as well as international. Following this stay I will be joining a homestay in another central city of Metro Manila before making my way to interesting scenarios further afield.
There is generally a lag between my travel adventures and when I get a chance to share them with you but this one is another non-travel posting written while visiting friends in Cobb County, Georgia with some photos inserted from my current location in Manila.
The image below is a short clip walking the streets of Manila, click on the image to play. If you received this post by email, click on the title in blue to open this posting into your browser so you can also play the video.
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” he had said and I listened. I understood, I had been there myself.
I thought back through the years to when I struggled with my own identity the most, struggling to discover who I was early in university at age 18,19. Before I had accepted many things about myself. I wished I could change things about my nature that were unchangeable. Being inherently introverted. Being highly sensitive. Being creative. Wanting to fall in love with a man instead of a woman. This last one caused me my greatest grief. (I value all of these today as some of my greatest gifts.)
I held to my conviction that all mankind is created equal. This helped me struggling with low self-esteem. Deep down I felt I was worth less than those around me. That I was broken and unlovable. But I’d remind myself that all of us are of equal value. I knew and felt that the poor man was as valuable as the rich, that a good-looking person was no better than a plain person. That we all had something within us to be cherished. Even me.
One’s value is not determined by status. The person who found this public space to air their laundry is worth as much as the person whose housekeeper does theirs. When I see a scene like this, I think of the life of the person behind the scene.
“You don’t need to know who you are,” I said to him after some moments of reflection. “You just need to know who you want to be. Within the limits of accepting your own nature and embracing your fixed character traits. Who you want to be is who you can be. Because who you are is constantly changing.”
Because who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. And we can change most of our behaviours. We can focus to be more kind, more generous. more loving. We can take action to be less hurtful, less aggressive, less controlling. We may need the aid of a good therapist to figure these things out if we find it impossible to break our knee-jerk reactions, but there is nothing stopping you from making the effort to be more like the person you want to be starting today.
Who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. Think about how your job becomes a part of your identity, because it is what you do. I’ve had times when who I was – was a teacher in Japan. -was an office worker in Edinburgh. -was an espresso bar manager in London. -was an artist in Toronto. -was an actor and tour guide in Fredericton. -was a recruiter in China. -was a student. -was a substitute teacher in Winnipeg. -was a retail business owner in Winnipeg. What we do is changeable, not just for work but how we behave in all areas of our life.
We all have our shortcomings but hopefully we all have ideals as to how we want to act, behave, and be in various situations. Often we react poorly and disappoint ourselves. But we can learn from our mistakes and improve. We can work towards being who we want to be in many different domains. It is well-known now that we cannot work towards being straight if we are gay, that is a fixed trait. But for character traits that actually matter, we can strive to improve.
A closer view of someone’s laundry hanging to dry in Metro Manila, Philippines.
Make a list of who you want to be as if it is true today.
What you value as important, is who you are. Or at least it can be, if you choose to make it so.
You may not be that yet, but you can work towards it. Changing automatic responses takes time, patience, and perseverance. But you can teach yourself to respond with kindness (for example) by being mindful to notice when you did not and promising yourself to behaving differently in the future. And then doing it.
Mine was something like this.
Who I am is someone who is:
-Kind, especially to those who deserve or need kindness.
-Generous and giving of myself and what I have. (But not overly generous, anymore. There needs to be balance. Too many people will take as much as you will give without consideration to you. I learned this the hard way.)
-Thoughtful of others thoughts and feelings.
-Polite and respectful with others behaviours, ideas, and values. (But also with my own.)
-Patient with myself and with others.
We can all benefit from stepping back, looking at ourselves, and deciding what values and behaviours we want more of and holding ourselves to a higher standard.
I’m going to make my own new list in my journal right now, as part of my starting 2015 on the right foot. Why don’t you do the same? It will only take a few minutes and it can only bring good.