Graduation day. July 11th, 2014.
We all sat there, still, as the Dean aimed to give this awe inspiring speech, telling everyone to head out there into the real world. "Join the system!"... "Chase those big paying jobs". I remember having a good look around. Everyone seemed so motivated. Ready to sprint out of the hall and head to Canary Wharf or Wall Street. I on the other hand, never felt more confused. I’ll never forget heading to the restroom after the ceremony, all dolled up in my graduation outfit. The large mirror as I entered seemed to have stopped me in my tracks, causing me to reflect at my image - nodding my head with disbelief.
I remember thinking to myself - Who am I? Where is all of this taking me?
Now the chances are that you probably looked into the mirror at least once today before reading this write up. You’ve had a shave, combed your hair, or even checked your teeth for that bit of fruit after breakfast. But, according to ‘IDology’ founder Caroline McHugh, "what you didn’t know is that the face looking back at you isn’t the face that everybody else sees. It’s a kind of reversed, distorted, back-to-front image."
So lets take a moment, and use it to ask yourself this question. A question that has possibly been looking for you your whole life. It is quite possible the simplest and possibly the hardest question you will ever ask.
Who do you think you are?
As is often argued by Sir Ken Robinson, the minute you showed up, you were given a life sentence. No you don't know how long you have left on this planet. Maybe you have another 40 years to live, and I just have 15. We have no idea how long we have got.
Although where you are born, when you are born, to whom you are born - all these things have a certain influence on how you become, and who you become. Reflecting on my life, they most certainly have had an impact on my outlook.
But rather than focusing, or worrying about life expectancy, let us focus on another, more important point. What do you expect from life? And what does life expect from you? Those are far interesting and fascinating questions. And when we think about this, the two places when you are brilliant at being yourself, just awesome, are these: when you are a kid, and when you are old.
When you are a kid you are fantastic at being yourself. You don't know how to disguise your differentness. The next time you are around a kid, stop for a second and observe. They are fascinated by the simplest of things and infinitely curious about what is around the corner, and the one after that. The other place when you are fantastic at being yourself is when you are old and wrinkly - because you just couldn't give a damn anymore. You get to that stage in your life when you realise there are more summers behind you than there are ahead of you, and everything intensifies. You become more honest, less compromising. Just think about an elderly that you could relate to. Surely they seemed to have reached this stage by now.And we tend to label these people as eccentric.
In fact, what they are actually doing is nothing short of just being authentic.
Reflecting on this, I find it quite fascinating how in the midst of all of this, life could be seen as being lived through a kind of hourglass effect.When you are young you are great at being yourself. When you are old you are great at being yourself. But the bit in the middle is seemingly problematic. We find ourselves being funnelled through this narrow path, along the straight and narrow - the ‘normal’ life, filled with fear of the unknown and anxiety.
Why is this the case? What ever happened to that young, curious adventurer?
As noted by Einstein, "the important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. "