Getting to know oneself is more important than getting to know other people.
It took me a long time to reach this conclusion. I used to look for myself subconsciously in other people’s personalities. I looked for myself everywhere except within myself. Some who used to know me argued to my face that I was even looking for my late best friend reincarnated. This was an unfair (albeit slightly true) assumption.
Losing my best friend felt like losing a part of me, and for a while I subconsciously searched for that part of me not only in other people but in other experiences and settings. It was as if I thought if I tried hard enough, I could get it back. I knew I couldn’t get her back, but I searched for it, whatever it was that made me who I was for knowing her. Eight years later, I know now that I will never get it back. However, I also know that I was never meant to. For knowing as well as losing her, I carry a different it with me through my life.
Getting to know myself included facing these uneasy truths about myself. Getting to know myself makes me realize how many people do not know themselves.
Today I used this list of traits to analyze the unnamed characters in my novel. There are over 400 traits on that incomplete list of traits. Many of my characters possess confusing and even contradictory traits. Being the kind of writer who analyzes character to the degree I do naturally leads me to the conclusion that contradictions in character are only human.
A human can be both:
Scared and brave.
Depressed and hopeful.
Busy and cautious.
Discerning and bold.
Aggressive and hurt.
Dauntless and discreet.
Dainty and dangerous.
Just like I can be both confident and un-confident.
No person is all good, and no person is all bad. Behind every evil action is a person the world irreparably hurt and then chose not save.
I gave a presentation to the board of UNF’s Leadership Certificate program before I graduated. It was about the importance of reflection. I carried a deep cardboard box into the board room and the weight of my journals slammed it loudly against the boardroom table’s shiny surface. I told my story like it was someone else’s because by then I’d finally understood it well enough. I explained every heartbreaking mistake, every misstep in judgment, and every failure. Only by doing this could I also explain every time I picked myself up, every lesson I learned, and every success I’d reached. My ex-professor cried, and the director said seriously that it wouldn’t be the last time they would heard from me.
I have high expectations for myself, and as I slowly but surely work on my novel, I also realize the expectations others have for me. Although it won’t be anytime soon, I know I will exceed every expectation ever placed on me. I know this because I know myself. I know every flaw and every weakness and I face them, no matter how difficult that is, and no matter how long it takes. Once that is done, I work.
I work toward the future I expect for myself.
I wish the same for all of you.