Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To BE or to DO?

Recently I’ve been corresponding with an old friend I haven’t seen in years – well, more accurately she’s one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends from about 20 years ago. In one email she sent last week she described me using three words which at the time I struggled to see in me – driven, focused and motivated.

At first I couldn’t understand what on earth she was talking about. For the most part I felt like a kind of nomadic hippy without a clue or direction – or is that how I think others have perceived me? I’ve moved between six countries on three continents over the past 40 months or so and haven’t stuck with a job for longer than 5 months during that time. At the moment I’m still not sure I want to do with myself, so how on earth can anyone seemingly that smart see anything that resembles focus, drive and determination in me?

I realised that perhaps this was true, but that I had started to look at things a bit differently. I’d started saying: to BE or to DO, that is the question. My determination has become less focused on what I do as opposed to who I am – that said, it doesn’t necessarily help me to be understood or liked. But that’s not my motivation, in any case.

While it’s obviously impossible to simply BE without ever DOing anything I’ve been thinking about the cause and effect of these matters. Do I do in order to find out who I am or does what I do come out of who I am? I remember one of the first times I had to wrestle with this sort of question back in 1997. I was a 17-year old kid who had been doing gymnastics for 11 years – during which time I had competed regionally, nationally and internationally. When I realised that my gymnastic career was coming to an end I wrestled with questions regarding who I was if I wasn’t a gymnast anymore. Did what I did really tell me who I was or was I trying to extract some kind of identity out of an activity and the associated accolades? The way I see it, the fact that I was struggling to figure out who I was without the gymnastics suggests that I had put the cart before the horse.

I’m still figuring out how the do-vs.-be questions play out in life but I’m determined to BE who I am and to DO whatever comes out of that as opposed to allowing other factors to tell me who I am and/or what I should do. But that’s something to explore another time…

PS: Ms B, let the conversations continue…