In response to last week’s post, a fellow blogger shared an inspiring account of the shaping influence his father had on his life, prompting me to explore the notion of identity further.
The natural world offers so many ways for thinking about our lives: the ways in which we live them and how we understand them. During my morning walks around the neighbourhood, I use Nature as a metaphorical filter through which to examine the way human lives are lived – mine in particular. The notion of time as circular, rather than linear, appeals to me, given the examples Nature provides.
At the moment many of our native trees are shedding their bark. I’m unsure of the botanical name of the ones pictured above. I think they are some form of lemon-scented flowering gum much loved by the flocks of Little Corellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and other birds which are attracted by the beautiful blossoms that appear later in Summer.
Responding to the call of the season summoned by the weather cycles, the trees shed last season’s layers of bark, growing into their new skins over the year’s course. As the old bark curls up and peels off, a delicate skin of silky sheen is revealed, tinted with pale shades of greens and creams that will mature to the lavender greys and apricot colours before they too will eventually shed. Deep beneath the outer layer of bark, the trees are changing, expanding, and putting down new growth rings. They’re becoming new forms of themselves.
As I walked, I drew parallels between these beautiful trees and humans, each with their inherent perpetuity potential. I thought of the ways we project different layers or aspects of our identities according to how and to whom we need to present the best possible expressions of ourselves.
These layers are not fixed but rather, are dependent on our emotional seasons and social weather in our perpetual state of ‘becoming’. We present different faces to the world depending on our social roles, situations and people we’re interacting with. We shed old, outdated versions of self, peeling them back to test the tender, newly minted ones for their capacity to excel. We ‘try on’ new ideas of who we are. Deep beneath our ‘surface selves’, we too, are expanding, creating more growth rings, outgrowing our old layers of identity, and growing new versions of self.
I find this process is accelerating as I get older. Social roles are changing which means I’m challenged on multiple fronts to find my best expressions of self.
I no longer readily recognise the face in the mirror as ‘me’, although I’m grateful it doesn’t scare little children.
I observe the changes, not with dismay but with a (mostly) detached curiosity. While my growth rings are many, my blessings are too.
Have you shed an old identity lately?