Tuesday, 26 July 2011

You Can Be Who You Are

As my primarily female readership cheerfully and anonymously admits it would rather be (A) stay-at-home mums or (B) working full-time for $£€ until retirement, I will now reflect on the great relief and privilege of knowing just who the heck you are.

Now science was not my bestest topic in school, but I can read pop psychology in the magazines at the hairdresser's as well as any other gal, and I always enjoy reading about how teenagers are not exactly sane. Apparently their mental wiring zings when it should zap and zaps when it should zing, and therefore teenage girls cry uncontrollably at awkward moments and teenage boys attempt to skateboard down railings. Aha!

Sometimes I have wondered if we aren't all just chugging merrily along until we are eleven or so--like those incredibly intelligent eleven year olds in films who give sage advice to their wrinkled-foreheaded parents--and then puberty hits and we are a big mental mess until our 31st birthday. (Our 31st birthday is approximately when we get over having turned 30 and feel rather happier about everything until our 34th birthday knocks us for a loop.)

Old people love to say that you are as old as you feel, but I suspect that we are all the ages we ever were all at once. Right at the core of our personality is a plump little fetus floating about happily without a care in the world. Around her is a one year old baby who is screaming with existential angst. Then around her there's a two year old around that who wants stuff. Then there's a three year old who wonders what happens if you pull a dog's tail really hard. And so on.

Having no children of my own, and a lot of time at my disposal, I occasionally think about myself at different ages. (This is rarely pleasant, incidentally.) Right now I am cramming Italian vocabulary into my head, so I am interested in my 15 year old self, the self who decided to sign up for Grade 11 Italian even though (or because) her 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old selves were bullied by "the Italian girls" in elementary school. Today I am very grateful to that 15 year old. It's as if she had socked away a nest egg to collect interest that I could spend in later life.

That said, and no disrespect to myself at 15, I seem to be a lot better at learning now. It may be true that mathematicians and physicists do their best work before they are 25, but there is no way at 15 or even 25 that I could have memorized 25 Italian vocabulary words a night. But behold: la testa, la fronte, il naso, la narice, la bocca, il labbro, il mento, il collo, la spalla, il seno, il torace, l'addomo, l'ombelico, l'avambraccio, il braccio, il gomito, il polso, la mano, il palmo, il pollice, l'indice, il medio, l'anulare, il mignolo. Grazie, grazie mille. If I keep that up I'll have my entire visual dictionary memorized in six months. Yay, me at 40!

To be fair to me at 15, I had a lot of other homework. Also my brain was zapping when it should have zipped, and zipping when it should have zapped. And it carried on in that mad unstructured fashion for quite a long time. Throw in a bad (and unsacramental) marriage into the mix and--eeek! It took me until I was 32 to really understand who I was and what I wanted to be and also that I COULD be who I was and what I wanted to be. It was (mostly, since I have some bosom sins) OKAY.

I do not know why I could not connect the dots at an earlier age. I really do not. And I have envied friends and colleagues who have told me knew (KNEW) at incredibly young ages--like 17--that they were meant to be Jesuit priests or married to their high-school sweethearts or owners of hairdressing salons and that this was OKAY.

However, there's nothing I can do now about my own 15 years (or so) of flailing around trying to know who I was and what I wanted to be, and to give myself permission to be them. Those years are history, and they're in the past, and I can look at them or ignore them, as I choose.

Maybe one day I will have to do a thorough review with God, and sometimes we will laugh, and sometimes I will cry. Right now, though, mostly I'm glad I got through. And although this seems like a really weird place to put in a plug for Lonergan's Insight, I'm really glad I read Lonergan's Insight because I am absolutely positive it made my brain expand. It helped make me who I am today.

Oh, wait. That is SUCH a cliche: It Helped Make Me Who I Am Today....

10 comments:

FrB said...

Brava Serafica! Devi tradurre tuo libro in Italiano! Si dice 'Single' in Italiano anche!

Seraphic said...

Si, lo so! :-D

Nekeisha said...

I am a Caribbean woman and currently I would prefer to be a working mother but would stay home with my kids for a while if the opportunity is there. I'm not really on the poll so I am adding myself.

Bethany said...

Bravisimo!
Love this post.

Little Mary said...

I find my inner five year old and thirteen year old pop up in the most annoying ways...

alias clio said...

Young girls' heads are addled because they are perpetually in love. But as for the young Seraphic, I suspect that she did know what she wanted to be: a writer. And writers must have a wide variety of experience in order to write.

Of course it would be folly to seek out unhappy Experience merely in order to have more to write about, but I suspect that for a certain type of writer, not all, it's more of a compulsion than a choice, driven not by idle but by passionate curiosity about life and people.

Clio

word verification - rograto (= rug rat?)

Seraphic said...

Sorry Nekeisha! I think you must be my only Caribbean reader...

Papal Letters said...

Yes, I can certify with a great deal of gratitude that Seraphic at 15 was well underway to becoming a great writer, as I had the good fortune of reading her notes many times a week while we were pen pals. What a blessing her writing was and is!

Seraphic Spouse said...

Goodness me! WERE you? Let me see, to whom was I writing at 15? Fifteen, you say?

This is quite exciting.

Nicole said...

No, Nekeisha is not your only Caribbean reader. I have a regular lurker and occasional commenter for a year now!!Caribbean Catholics are all over the Catholic blogosphere!! (BTW, Hi Nekeisha!!)

As for the poll, my ideal is to stay at home with a freelance writing job. However, with the housing prices being what they are in my country, I doubt I would find anyone rich enough to afford a stay at home wife!! (An average house in a decent neighborhood can cost $1M+ in our country in our money or US 250,000-350,000) So having said that I would have to become a working Mom.