A question that everybody is all too familiar with, I’m sure. That famous moment when you pause, think and ask yourself, “What am I and/or who am I?”
This question is never an easy one to answer and sometimes the journey it will lead you on is scary, enlightening and unexpected. We all have to answer to the voice inside our heads at some point. I can honestly, say, this happened to me recently.
After living here in Fort McMurray for 4 years and working 3 different jobs, one of which I went to school for, the question was probably bound to come up sooner or later. The interesting part is that while I am currently working, I generally leave out the part of what I do for a living on social media. When friends ask, I eventually tell them what I do for work, but I don’t offer it freely. When I introduce myself to people I don’t know, I rarely ever lead with what pays the bills.
To clarify, it’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do for a living, nor am I unhappy. Yes I do have bad days, but I have good days as well. I work with a fantastic team and the company I work for treats me well. But this job is not what defines me. It is not who and what I am.
Then how do I answer this question?
Recently, I took a chance and enrolled on an online course for creative writing. I had been told in the past that I had some small talent in writing so I figured I would give it a shot. I’d never considered myself much of a writer. That is to say, I could write the odd thing here and there but I had never published anything or been told that I have something worthwhile to say that other people would want to read. I was always afraid of criticism. I always figured that I could not call myself a writer because I wasn’t good enough or that any ideas I would come up with are complete garbage. Regardless, I committed to the course.
First and foremost, the course taught me that it was okay to write poorly. With this single thought in my head, ideas were flowing all over the page. Some of them I used, others I kept. There were a few that had me scratching my head but ultimately, the fear of writing I thought I had started to melt away. Were were taught several exercises to simply write whatever’s on your mind or about something completely random. Not everything had to be a story about a guy who goes on an adventure and triumphs over evil. Not everything had to make sense. In fact, we were encouraged to write about something as mundane as a paperclip or pencil.
Soon I had pages and pages of short stories, little poems and descriptive paragraphs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Some of them I shared, some of them I’ve kept to myself. That’s part of the fun of it though is that some of it is meant to be shared while some of it is mine and mine alone. Writing, for me, is about the search for understanding. This is how I explore my perception and understanding of the world around me. Writing is, by far, one of the most therapeutic things I have ever done.
Now that the course is complete, I feel a bit of a loss for the exercises and lessons that I had to look forward to week after to week. At the same time, I am now looking to the future and what the next step will be.
So now I look in the mirror and ask myself, “what and who am I?” I could tell people what I do for a day job, but that is not who I am. I could tell myself that I work for a good company and what I do for a living defines me as a person, but that is not what I am.
I am a writer.
Why do I deserve to call myself a writer? Who am I to make that assumption?
I am a writer….because I say I am. I am a writer because I choose to be.
Nobody can tell you who or what you are. Nobody can make the decision for you.
You need to find it.