I knew this before I spent time in hospitals or around kitchen tables with people sharing deep things. I knew in slices. And I keep learning that coming to self-awareness is a life-long journey.
I realize that people don’t usually think about and reflect upon themselves. That would probably be my point in thinking this over, writing this down. It is a requirement of good living to consider oneself. It should be normal but it feels like a privilege.
This consideration is generally an adult behavior, whenever adulthood begins. Of course, human development people speculate how much longer adolescence really is in comparison to the early college cutoff of previous understandings. We are children. Then we become something else, adolescents, and it takes a long time for that mixed period of smashing, surveying, simplifying, and rebuilding to occur.
When that finishes, we step into a period of becoming. A period of becoming different. A period of differently becoming. Part of becoming is developing a sense of self, which is my self-awareness. I don’t think we can be self-aware throughout childhood. We are certainly close to parts of our selves. We know things then that God would have to be very gracious for us to remember, but distance begins and distance lengthens, and we lose along the way a real sense of who we are.
We lose that abiding, plain, underground sense of whose we are. Our belongingness parts company with our self-understanding because that self-understanding is colored by the society (i.e., the social world of friends, peers, and competitors–all different people). We lose, and thankfully, that individualistic self-knowing.
Searching for a deeper, older, essentially communal self, we drift. And it takes a long time, a life time, to return (to) the core of our created-ness. That journey is filled with cracks in the ground under my feet. It is a personal but not private journey. Indeed, it is a very peopled journey. And eventually we get (to) who we are. We “find” ourselves. Eventually–and perhaps this is truly the hopeful theologian in me eking up–we arrive to our selves and find a rhythmic, balanced, engaging dance of divine community.
Who are you? Who am I? We hardly get those answers in college. We hardly “come to terms” with who we are when we get that first job or lose that first love or bury that parent buy that shiny toy. We don’t learn those things until we keep living. We have to keep living to learn. We have to keep living to keep learning. Which is exciting because there are things I learned as a boy that it might take you decades to learn. And there are things you picked up in a day that will take me years to get. And in that getting, in that process of living and learning, we are returning. Always returning. Always coming back to who we were.