So someone recently asked me: What are 5 things which define you? It was such a huge question that warrants so much thought that by the time I finished my third, we had ran out of time. It was an interesting thing to think about nonetheless, so I shall note down my 5 things here. In a particular order:
Needless to say, the number one thing which defines who I am is Christ. I am a Christian first before anything else, and that directs every area of my life. There is no secular-sacred divide, no divorce between relationships, academics, family, and my faith. I am a child of God, and a brother of Christ.
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”
– 1 Peter 2:9
Second to my relationship with Christ, are my relationships with others. I am a highly relational person – not in the sense of needing a lot of people in my life, but I value the few close relationships that I have. I value the trust, intimacy, and loyalty that comes with such relationships, and would devote much time and effort to maintain and nurture them. Superficial friendships bore me and I require depth – the sharing of sorrows and joys, of encouragement and admonishment, of peace and anxiety, of life. Each close friend is unique, and I love them with my life.
The strengths that arise from this include strong emotional depth and intimacy in my relationships, which are healthy things to have in life. It is hard to give any objective positive points since I am this way because I enjoy the results that it brings. However, it does lend to a higher propensity to be dependent on people, to give too much, and to expect too much. These tendencies however, have been tempered.
I see myself as a writer. This does not mean that I let my writing define who I am. Rather, writing brings with it a whole set of lens and filters with which to take in the world. You see things differently; melodrama aside, you see beauty in the mundane, poetry in the prosaic. But that’s only when you are in a good mood. When you are down, everything is melancholy, everything is sad. Yet even then, you know there is a certain beauty in it, because you know a sad story is a beautiful one. That is not all. The way I see my life is also an extension of my writing. The need for a grand narrative that makes sense is something which makes me see links, sequences, poetry and chaos in ways that others might not. It drives me to always have an account of my life – my past, present, and future. My life is my ultimate story, filled with metaphors, symbols, parallels, contrasts, and climaxes. I am a writer and a character at the same time.
This is good because everything is poetic. Moreover, the need to string things together gives my life a certain coherence and order, such that I am almost always able to give an account. It allows me pick out things to learn from, to improve upon, to beware of. It makes me sensitive to the direction that my life is taking. Yet on the flip-side, the need to understand and the need for my life to make narrative sense can drive me crazy. An unexplained and inexplicable event can bug me to no end, when I really should let it go like normal people do. Also, I believe when the writer part of me trumps the character part, which it does often, I sometimes end up feeling the need to take a certain course of action that would fit the story, rather than one that I would want as a person.
I am an introvert. Obviously on one plane this refers to me actually being an introvert; I prefer to be observing on the sidelines before interacting with anyone new; I need alone time, to think and to reflect and sometimes just to bum around in my own company. But this can be extrapolated on a deeper level. As with social interaction, I like to observe and think before I get into anything in life, be it a relationship, a certain role, a certain task or something else. In that way, I am rather cautious. And more than just specific periods of alone time, I need space in my own life. Space to pursue what I want, space to make sense of my life. I am basically pretty content to largely be by myself, provided I have the assurance of the stability of my close relationships as avenues for my bouts of social interaction. I suppose you can begin to see the links between 2. and 3., and this. (Don’t get the wrong idea, I really am not a loner, and I actually come into contact with people very often. I usually have no problem with that.)
I value my introversion because I think it is highly important to have alone time. Without it, you cannot reflect, you cannot discern, and you cannot refocus. Sometimes, you cannot even work. I think it is good because people need to be content with their own company. The cautiousness that this extends to also allows me to fully appreciate and understand a situation (or a person) with all its (or his/her) nuances before diving into it (or a relationship with him/her). That way I am always certain of how things are and how I fit in them. Yet of course, avoiding social interaction is always unhealthy for obvious reasons, while being alone with your thoughts too often could be destructive. Also, I have learnt that an over-cautiousness can become cowardice very easily.
I like to put on a front of cynicism, but I really am an idealist at heart. The cynicism is just something trained that I use to temper my idealism from being too unrealistic. So if you really examine the depths of my heart, you will find me to be highly idealistic. I always seem to be rather optimistic about situations I find myself in, and I always like to trust people from the get-go. Ideals such as trust, community, friendship, faith, peace, and harmony, are things I see to be important and attainable. Things are just so much happier when you are an optimist, no? Part of this idealism is of course also expressed in romanticism (with a small ‘r’). Emotions are important, and love will conquer the day. Sounds exaggerated, and it probably is, but I think this is my default state – everything else is me trying to curb it. (Although my view of love is not a very romantic one in the classical sense.) So although in my life situations I am capable of being somewhat realistic and even cynical on the outside, deep down I am holding on to very high ideals.
The good part of this is obviously that I see the good side in most things. It is easy for me to have hope, and to find joy. Even if the world isn’t as great as I believe it to be, at least I feel good thinking that it is. Of course the bad part is that I am often disappointed by situations, and people often don’t meet expectations. Often, I find myself moving too fast and expecting an eventual outcome of good to happen more immediately. Yet the wonderful thing about being an idealist is that even when you are disappointed, it is easy to pick yourself back up again.
There you have it. The writing isn’t great, but I am sick. So deal with it. Perhaps as I think more certain items might be replaced, or expanded, or altered. Though number one is definitely right there at the top.