My friend Gaby has a seven-year-old sister. Her name is Joelle. Funnily enough, I’ve never met Joelle. I’ve heard quite a lot about her though. I know she hates bedtime and loves sushi. She hates authority and loves memorizing song lyrics. She hates anything spicy and loves the pool.
Why am I describing her in this way though? Describing her using her likes and dislikes. When we move beyond factual descriptives and surface features of an individual—one’s appearance, age, birthplace, occupation, etc—where do we go? One particularly well-traveled route is the preference route; the favorites route; the likes and dislikes route. Interpreting someone based on his or her preferences is categorizable and orderly. Thus, it’s quite the inviting path…
Kids often get asked the same questions…What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your favorite color? What’s your dream vacation? What do you want for your birthday? I’m sure you’ve heard the backlash that has emerged when it comes to the, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. What about the “What’s your favorite color?” question, though?
Why don’t we question this question?
Gaby told me a story about Joelle—about a time when she asked Joelle about her favorite color. That particular day, Joelle responded, “Red.” Gaby paused, giggled, and responded: “But Joelle, yesterday you said it was blue?” To that, Joelle said: “So what?”
Damn right, Joelle. So what? Now, I’m not trying to peg Gaby as the villain, as her question was and is valid. She asked a question that so many of us would ask. Why, though? Widespread throughout our society are many, many expectations—one of which is an expected fixedness.
An expected fixedness of answers,
This becomes the most dangerous when we assign expected fixedness to ourselves. As individuals, we aren’t consistent. The growth we undergo each and every day that derives from simply living life—experiencing, absorbing, learning—alters us. More specifically, on the most micro, momentary level, we’re changing incessantly, from our body chemistry, the length of our fingernails, the quantity of blood cells within us.
For some reason though, we strive for consistency. First, energy goes into achieving a state of consistency. Once that’s reached, energy goes into maintaining a state of consistency. Once one realizes that consistency is unmaintainable, energy goes into mourning the loss of an illusive consistency that once was(n’t). It’s an exhausting cycle.
We’re so scared of fleetingness, so much so that it's hard to appreciate the here and now.
I know what it’s like to feel like I’m flailing in the endeavor of “finding myself.” I know what it’s like to feel immense pressure to set parameters for my identity. It’s as if we’re expected to be walking Instagram bios…Dreamer. Wanderer. Blogger. Cupcake-lover. Taurus. Plant-based eater…
I don’t know about you, but…
I feel pressure to radiate a consistent aura through a consistent style. I feel pressure to consistently have my shit together. I feel pressure to have a consistent, signature flair—be it an opinion, a nail color, a characteristic, a component of my daily routine. The list goes on.
Sure, likes and dislikes cause us to engage in activities and connect with others that, in turn, collectively contribute to the construction of our identities. However, recognize the complexity that IS your identity—that is YOU.
You’re more than a favorite color.
Dusting your room once doesn’t mean the dust won’t collect again, even after the moment you’re finished. Even upon completion, don’t box that task off. Recognize the inevitable progress, movement, and change that occurs in every moment. You’ll have to dust again soon.
Accept variability, even volatility. Embrace growth. Reject expected fixedness. Be YOU. Love that ever-changing you.
The next day, Gaby asked Joelle her favorite color one more time. This time, Joelle responded, “Rainbow.”