It’s my birthday this week, so I’m slightly more neurotic than usual. Birthdays, for me, are less a celebration of my existence than a vehicle for self-evaluation. Depending on the year that’s been, this process can be wonderful or terrible. What have I done with this life of mine? Something great or something mediocre? How much closer am I to becoming the person I want to be?
It’s been an interesting year. There have been moments of failure and moments of triumph. International adventures and revelations that changed my whole life trajectory. I left one job and I’m about to start another. I began volunteering and experienced all the accompanying joy and heartbreak. And I grew one year older.
If there’s one big change I’ve noticed in myself, it’s that, far more than last year or the year before, I know who I am. Identity is not a fixed point, of course; I’m still growing, and I expect to keep on changing for the rest of my life. But I know my heart. I know what motivates me and what I require for happiness. And I’m not afraid to share that with other people.
I’ve been going through the induction process for a new job in the past few weeks and it’s been an interesting experience. Meeting so many new people in such a short period requires distilling yourself down to a few points of interest. How do you represent yourself to others? How comfortable are you in revealing the deepest parts of yourself?
We talked a lot about values in induction. One activity had us literally pinning our values to our sleeves and talking about them with the people around us. And, you know, we faced a choice there. We didn’t have to choose the things we valued most. No one would know if we discarded our deepest values in favour of something easier. Happiness, maybe. Everyone understands happiness. And a few years ago, maybe I would have.
But I know, now. I know who I am, I’m comfortable in myself, and I’m willing to pin my heart to my sleeve to share that with others.
Maybe growing older isn’t so bad after all.