Know Thyself, A Paradox

I need, I want, I should, I am...

The common denominator here is I. What is I? Can it be defined? I only occurs when one is defining themselves. is the heaviest letter.



I am alive. I have thoughts. I have fears. I don't know. I am hungry. These all seem to be simple enough statements. So what’s the big deal? At what point do people go from using Ias an expression to I as an identity? When does it turn from “this is happening” to “this is happening to me” ?


The double-edged sword of writing a blog post questioning the sanctity of I, is that it’s a fucking blog post that I am writing and that you are reading with the perception that Ihave written it. Are you confused? I sure as hell am. My saving grace here, is that I’m not writing at anyone. I’m not spewing revelations and trying to prove to you why you need to change your way of living. These are honest questions. I ask them of myself, the world asks them of all of us, and I’m sure everyone asks at some point, “what is all of this?”


One observation of being abroad, is how easily it shifts your sense of self. You suddenly realize what elements make up who you think you are; and what’s surprising is most of them have nothing to do with you. They have to do with what you want people to think of you.


I have a hyper-awareness of myself and my mannerisms here. When I’m riding in the tram, I don’t know how to sit or what to do with my hands. When I’m uncomfortable, I’ll rub my eye or brush my hair off my forehead in an unconscious attempt to seem nonchalant. When I’m trying to find my way somewhere I try to look like I know exactly where I’m going. All of my attention is on my facial expression, my steady pace, my hands in my pockets, and other people’s eyes. My sense of self seems to depend on everything around me. It’s like I’m relearning how to exist in the world (in a blend into the crowd kind of way). How exhausting is that?


Isn’t that what we all learn? How to carry ourselves in order to be just the right amount of normal? Today on the street I saw a woman wearing a long jacket, and on the back in big lettering were the words “Not Intellectual And Conventional Person”. This is very common here, clothing with English phrases that make no sense (I once was gifted underwear from here that said “Juicy Mix For You” all over them). I began laughing to myself at first, because who on earth would knowingly wear a jacket insulting themselves on the back? Then I stopped laughing, because it dawned on me that we all wear that jacket. We all wear our vulnerabilities, albeit not quite so literally; but they can be the hardest thing to take off at the end of the day.


In rare moments, when I don’t feel pressure to identify with my appearance, or my name, or my thoughts- when I simply exist- it can be freeing, not wondering Who I am and knowing just that I am here.