At bedtime, I read William a book we found here at the cabin called I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. It had a great message all about being yourself and not bowing to pressure from anyone else about how you should be. I asked William if he wanted to be himself, and he said, “No. I want to be Papa.”
I explained that you can be like other people, but you must always be only yourself. “There is no one else like you,” I explained. “You are the only William Jamieson in the whole world.”
“No,” he replied. “At the zoo someone yelled ‘William’ and I said ‘yes’, and it was another kid named William, so I’m not the only one.”
I laughed and agreed that there are many Williams in this world, but he is the only one who looks like him and feels like him inside, with all of his unique characteristics and quirks. I stressed that he should never try to be anyone except who he is. We can all make ourselves better, but we shouldn’t change our specific individuality, for this is our gift to the world, setting us apart from everyone else. We all have our own ideas, and a one-of-a-kind voice to express our ideas, and we should never censor that or change it.
I didn’t really know myself until I was in my mid-twenties. I didn’t give any conscious thought to my own identity; I didn’t understand that my personality was the key to finding my place in this world and squarely owning the real estate I lived in.
When I was 25, I had a discussion with my mom which changed me forever. We talked about my close friendship with my best friend and her family while I was growing up, and I realized during this conversation that my friend’s parents told me repeatedly as an adolescent that I should’ve been born into their family. This went deep into my spirit and created a sort of fractured identity, where I felt I had one foot in my family of origin and one in my family of choice.
I’ve been writing about this dichotomy in my memoir about my dad, and it’s an interesting thing in hindsight because as I grew up into my twenties, the ground beneath my feet began to shift, and I felt like I was doing the splits with one foot in each camp. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling. I was nurturing both sides of my personality, being the person who was acceptable within my own family, and maintaining the persona I created for my best friend’s family in order to be acceptable there. I didn’t have the first clue who I really was, and had to start figuring out my own identity at the ripe old age of 25.
I love that both of my kids will grow up with a stronger sense of self than I had. I enjoy talking with both of them about identity, encouraging them to always be only themselves. I love this quote by Judy Garland, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else.” This will be the battle cry that will reign over my kids as they grow into adolescence.