I know a few things. I’ve always enjoyed reading, gathering information, research and evidence. I suppose I could say I love learning – figuring things out, learning new skills, taking courses and filling myself with facts, figures, models and theories. I’ve learned an immeasurable and often forgettable amount over the years, but I’m not sure how much I know about myself.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and something I saw on Twitter sparked the thought in my head again. It was one of these motivational quote pictures, and the comment beside it was ‘What have you learned, unlearned, or relearned today?’ I thought how frequently I ask others that very question, and how infrequently I ask the question of myself, about myself, to get to know myself.
I’ve been pursuing this line of thought for a while now, since last May in fact.
I was on a train from Yangon to Bagan, sharing my ‘superior’ carriage with a young couple in their early twenties, also travelling around Asia. Riley (from Boston originally and Munich latterly) and Natasha (from Malta) made great travelling companions; I learned lots of invaluable travelling tips by watching what they did and said – how Riley opened his beer without a bottle opener, how they produced plastic gloves to hold the juicy fruit as they cut and peeled it with a tiny Swiss Army knife from an outside pouch on their rucksack, how they cleaned up with an equally small travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer, how they haggled with the sellers that accosted us every time the train slowed down, how they said no with a firm and culturally appropriate hand gesture. They were so young and yet so experienced. I learned from their actions and the great stories they told. They were lovely people too, not in my face all the time; talked when they needed to, but quiet, knowing and moderate too.
Riley’s most memorable comment was about one of this father’s friends, a trucker who was driving a vehicle without air conditioning across a desert in the Middle East when he decided he never wanted to do this again; he vowed never to do hot temperatures for work or holidays ever again. ‘I’m a cold temperature person’ was the driver’s comment. It wasn’t this story, or the drivers proclamation that struck me; it was Riley’s summary that I found profound.
‘I’ve never known anyone know himself so well; he knew exactly who he was.’
I remember thinking at the time ‘What a wise observation from someone so young’. And I felt envious, wondering to myself ‘How many people know themselves so well, that someone would describe them in such a way. Would someone describe me that way? Do I know exactly who I am?’
And I wonder, how will I get to know exactly who I am?