Who Do I Think I Am?
- May 02, 2016
- Josh Godwin
I’m at a weird place in my life. I know that’s pretty common for a person of 25 years. Ascending into the world of full-fledge young adulthood, especially in the constantly mobile world of the twenty-first century, comes with the territory of living in a constant state of motion. We’re always on the go because the conventions of the time say so. We finish our education. We get jobs (hopefully). We find a place to live. We search for friends and future loved ones wherever we happen to land. And we pray that in the midst of all of this we can still find some semblance of a steady life.
Life in the twenty-first century is a lot about staying mobile. We’re like social nomads, moving from place to place in life searching for the next source of sustenance and support. Some of us find that in the people we meet along the way. Sadly, some find it in harmful and unhealthy habits. Others never really seem to get their footing on this airport moving sidewalk of a life, stuck in the morose movement back and forth.
Right now I’m on a big mobility moment in life. I’m about to graduate from graduate school, and for the first time in my self-aware life I won’t be a student of some kind. My wife of five months, who I’ve been with for almost six and a half years, said to me the other day, “I’ve never known you not as a student.” Then it hit me. It struck my train of thought like an old Western bandit: I’ve never known myself as a not-a-student.
For fairly close to two decades, I’ve defined myself by my status as a student. I’ve never been much of anything else, have I? Sure, I’ve had odd and end jobs like most teens and I’ve had what I would call a “real” job for more than two years now. But, at the same time my education has remained one of the biggest parts of my life, and at times even seemed like the biggest. I’ve counted my seasons by the rotation of Summer and Winter Breaks; I’ve calculated my sleep patterns by the tides of midterms and finals. In many ways, it’s the only life I’ve really known.
So here comes the existential question that has wandered the back of my mind lately. Like a shadow sneaking around the backside of my brain, it’s haunted my ponderings. When I’m no longer a student, what will I be?
I’ll be a young adult; I know that much. But like I said earlier, in the ever-changing world that we are thrown into that doesn’t mean a whole lot. So where does my meaning come from? How do I understand myself when the longest-lasting definition of what I am (a student) is no longer available? Do I seek a new definition, or do I take my place in the revolving door of self-definition, constantly searching for how to know and define who I am.
These thoughts tempt me to be overwhelmed with it all. It feels dense, overly heavy. But as much as I’m tempted to join that existential question in the shadows of my mind, I have an option that helps me look forward towards the light. How do I define myself? The same way that God defines me, as a child and a follower. As much as I define myself as student, or as an employee, or as a brother and friend, the one definition that I will never be unable to claim is a beloved child of God. That’s very comforting. When so much of life is constantly swirling and shifting around us, we are able to find a place of peace in our identity to the God that created us.
So as I go through this weird time of transition, as we all do in some fashion, I’m not too worried about it. Is it going to be strange not going back into a classroom come August? Most definitely. Is it going to be weird not having to stay up very late or wake up at an unholy hour to read obscure pieces or write a paper? In the best way imaginable. Am I going to feel lost without the identity of a “student” anymore? Not at all. Because I am already the best thing that I could ever be. I am a child of the God that created everything I could ever see. And that is the only identity I’ll ever need.