As most people pass through the existential crises of the teenage years, the question of “Who Am I?” endlessly reincarnates time and time again. What is it that makes me special? Is there a specific purpose in my life? Do I mean anything? These are all related questions that strive for identity.
But seeking this identity is quick funny, in a way. “Who am I?” Well, which I are you looking for? Every few years or so (or even much, much less time), I can reflect on my life and see that I have changed. I have physically changed. My beliefs have shifted, even if it is only slightly. My family relationships have changed. The I appears to be quite fluid.
Ten years ago, I was almost a completely different individual. I was a bachelor living off my parents in another state. I have a small group of friends. I had less wrinkles, more weight, and shaggy hair. I was also a strict, literalist and fundamentalist in all intellectual and spiritual matters.
Now, I’m married with two children and live ~600 miles away from my old home. I no longer keep contact with those friends and have no truly close friends, besides my wife. I’m a healthier weight now, although I have substantially less hair and more wrinkles gracing my complexion. And intellectually and spiritually, I have journeyed from one side of extremism to the other, only to find myself in a near-comfortable middle ground where I accept the limitations of my faculties.
But there are some things that have not changed in ten years. I still enjoy playing guitar, listening to punk, treating others equitably, loving nature. My face, while changed, still reflects the same structure and general form of my youth. And I still love to think – about a lot of things.
While there are some things that only shift in degree about myself, overall I can say that the I in “Who am I?” is fluid. So the existential dispair that I felt about this question in my teenage years was slightly in vain. I say slightly because it forced my to be reflective about my life. It drove me to understand myself and the world around me. It is the great irony of Kierkegaard. It was an infinite, absolute negativity that allowed me to clean the slate. After that irony, I was able to build myself up on a clean foundation.
So there is no need to ask “Who am I?” Instead, ask “Who am I now?” and, more importantly, “Who am I becoming?” Because we are all in a state of becoming until there is no more becoming (death).