You’ve probably heard it before, right? Dr. Seuss shared that simple truth in Happy Birthday To You.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Nice thought! It’s one we should always remember. But… what is it about YOU that makes you YOU?
Over the years, I’ve noted several things that are “quintessentially me” — things that I recognize as being part of who I am. Let me give an example.
Once a friend of a friend came to visit, noticed my baby grand in the living room and commented, “Oh, what a beautiful piano.” Without thinking, I replied, “Yes, but I don’t play it.”
Let me explain. I began studying piano at age four. I was put on stage for the first time at a school assembly when I was in Kindergarten. (Never mind that I was so sick I wasn’t able to attend school that day. I was driven to school to perform, then quickly taken home to bed again.) All through elementary school, junior high, and high school, I was “the girl who plays the piano.” I played for music classes, I played for fashion shows, I played for school musicals. I went on to study piano at the Conservatory of Music in Kansas City, and for a time, I taught piano.
Music was an integral part of my life. It was a big part of what made me…ME. But this friend of a friend knew nothing about that. When, with a serious expression, he looked at me and asked, “Have you ever thought of taking lessons?”, my mind didn’t understand the question.
To me, I realized as I pondered the situation, playing the piano was so much a part of who I was that I couldn’t grasp the fact that somebody didn’t know that.
What I’d actually meant with my off-hand remark was “Yes, of course, I’ve played the piano for years and years, but even though I have this beautiful piano, I don’t play it very much anymore because I’m too busy with other things.”
Basically, I expected this individual to fill in the unspoken words. I thought they should be obvious because I had always been “the girl who plays the piano.”
This has happened a number of different times with different interests and abilities I claim as part of who I am. It’s always rather startling, I think, to realize that, many times, we define who we are through what we do.
- I play the piano
- I love to cook
- I study American history
- I am a writer
Yes, true enough. I am all of these things and more.
- I am a wife
- I am a mother
Yes, again, true enough, but should we define ourselves by our relationships?
Whenever I ponder this question of what makes me who I am, my mind goes back in time to one very memorable afternoon more than twenty-five years ago. I was attending a school “field day” trip with one of my daughters. The class was visiting what’s known as “Exchange City”, a place where students could gain a first-hand understanding of how our economic system works.
Note: Sometime I’ll share my thoughts and feelings on Exchange City. For now, let’s just say I was not impressed with the “lessons in consumerism” the children received that day.
As the students were herded off for instructions on how to be good little shoppers, the parents were divided into groups to become shopkeepers. My group was to run the city’s warehouse, a place where other business-owners could come for supplies. Our first task was to name our warehouse.
I remember it so well.
Immediately, all eyes turned to me. I knew none of these parents, had never met a single one of them before that day. Yet, somehow, when the time came for a creative decision to be made, every man and every woman in that room looked — at once — to me.
“What do YOU think we should call our warehouse?”
It was another of those clearly-defining moments in my life, a moment when I realized exactly who I am. I am a creative individual.
How did these people know? Creativity was, and is, so much a part of me and my life experience that it shows through somehow. Maybe these individuals picked up on it from things I’d said, or maybe it was my expressions, my attitudes. Maybe it was the way I dressed. I don’t know how these people knew, but they did.
Yes, that’s who I am.
Now, who are you?