I once heard that you’re never lonely if you like the person you’re alone with. Sounded simple enough, only to discover that most people I know don’t like who they are. Obviously that self-loathing or dislike is rarely displayed overtly, but that’s only if you don’t know what to look for. However, that’s beside the point. On a trip I undertook from Johannesburg to Cape Town yesterday by car, I found myself contemplating what it means to be just me, by myself, without distractions, or definitions, or perceptions to meet. It was interesting.
I realised that the quiet moments are never quiet. What the mouth restrains the mind shouts out loud. My mind drifted to past relationships that I abandoned and relationships that abandoned me. But interestingly though, there was no bitterness attached to the memories. It was simply recollections of events that passed. Events that add to the compilation of moments that personify my life, but hardly ever defining moments. I gave up the ghost of the past a long time ago. It wasn’t difficult to do. I just stopped investing in it.
So this journey by car, almost 14 hours straight, with no one but my thoughts and some nostalgic tunes to keep me company, allowed me moments of pause that is otherwise not possible in the daily clutter of life. It wasn’t a matter of leaving life behind, or trying to escape the race. It was more a moment intended to take a breath. A deep breath. Time to reflect, or not to reflect. Time to allow my mind to travel its own path without deliberation or purpose. It was then that a sobering realisation dawned on me. What was it that defined who I am today?
Surprisingly, I found the radio or the music I had selected for the trip to be an intrusion quite often. In fact, so much so that even the sound of the icy wind howling outside proved to be a distraction when I turned down the audio. But the intrusion was not a harsh one. It wasn’t so because it resurrected unwanted memories or anything like that. Quite the contrary, it imposed on my quiet time with me. Those tunes and noises prompted a response. It demanded attention. I didn’t want that. I wanted time for solace. Time to reflect on whether the path I am travelling is a good one, or the path that I have travelled was in vain. It was time to take stock, but not deliberately so. Perhaps, all this simply prompted me towards considering whether or not there is purpose to being me.
But even such considerations were not entirely the focus of my thoughts. There was no specific focus. That was the beauty of it. I had the soft nagging of deadlines in the back of my mind, but not loud enough to prevent me from stopping to find beauty in the gravel by the roadside. Beauty that is ignored because we’re always too busy with important things, like living up to expectations, or maintaining specific appearances. The bee at the side of the road didn’t care that no one was looking. In fact, after shoving my phone up close to capture the moment, it didn’t seem to care that I was looking either.
But clichés aside, there is a more important truth to all this. A few wild flowers or straggling bees in an abandoned space is not what lent that space beauty. Nor did it detract from it. It simply was that way, independent of my appreciation of it. The fact that I found a moment to pause for long enough to admire and appreciate it in its natural state is what afforded me that moment of beauty. But such appreciation did not alter that scene in any way. Whether I appreciated it or not, it was still true to its nature. Perhaps in that is the life lesson I needed to take.
Doing what I need to do, independent of affirmation or consequence, should not taint my intent behind doing it. The value or beauty that I choose to offer the world should not be based on how I want it to be received, or how it is appreciated or reciprocated. Instead, it should simply be an expression of me. An expression of the sum total of my life’s lessons that inform a more sincere offering without remuneration. But it still did not answer the question that begged a definition of who I am.
I’ve always maintained a romantic notion that stated that I choose not to be defined. I think that ceased to be just a notion yesterday. In fact, probably a long time ago, but yesterday it became a conscious un-subscription from that notion. Definition by definition implies a final state. It implies a completed form, or a finite outcome. I am not yet final. I am not yet fully formed. I will never be fully formed and therefore will never subscribe to a specific definition. Except when I take my last breath. At that moment, and only at that moment, will the sum total of my life’s experiences declare my final definition, and only against that will I be judged.
By those that consider the whole of me, I may be judged fairly. But by those that remain invested in only a single moment of time from a distant memory, they will only be able to judge an abstract moment of what I lived. Their fixation on me, and inadvertently on their own singular moments, will rob them of the beauty of the whole because they opted to remain defined from fear of the belief that they may not be able to exceed what they have already achieved. Some remain rooted in a moment that defined their insignificance, and the fear of discovering that they may be even less significant than that which prevented them from being more.
The time I spent with me yesterday is time that is rarely experienced by most. Not because I am better, or more capable, but simply because the saturation of fear and self-loathing defines more souls than life itself ever did.
I am me. And I am not yet complete. I am not a work in progress, nor am I a commodity for sale. And I am yet to be defined.