Asking Who I Want to Be


A few weeks ago. An email from a friend, “I just took this job, and I got an offer for this other job. What should I do?”

My response, “Who do you want to be in this situation?”

End of conversation.

That was the guidance necessary, not an answer, but a question to which I did not know the answer.

This is often the case.

At SLA, Chris will often say his hopes for the students are that they will leave the school thoughtful, wise, passionate, and kind.

I want those things too, but it’s not my answer. My answer with anyone is that I hope I can in some way help them on their way to being the better version of themselves.

It’s my answer for myself too.

Today, in a conversation at work, I found myself faced with a colleague whose approach was to point out the problems we were facing and then stare at me. The eyes I saw across the table said, “Problems everywhere. Probably more problems on the horizon. Might as well pack it in.”

If you’ve spent any time with me, it’s clear I’m not keen on dwelling for long on the difficulties problems present. Sitting across the table, I could feel the little stress ball starting somewhere between my stomach and my chest.

In that moment, I asked myself, “Who do I want to be right now?” The act of asking moved me from loudly inquiring, “How did you let these problems happen in the first place?” and moved me to, “What are do you suggest we do next?”

To be sure, I was still frustrated. I still am. The difference was asking who I wanted to be when I found myself sitting in frustration. In the second it took me to think of my answer, I was able to change tack. As I’m recounting this story here, I realize I’m closer to proud of that version of me than I would have been if I’d let loose what I was feeling in the moment.

It’s a question I’ve had to ask myself quite a bit in the last week as I’ve watched the aftermath of Charleston, people’s response to today’s health insurance decision, and either way the gavel falls on marriage equity in the next few days.

“Who am I?” is important.

“Who do I want to be?” is equally so.

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