Wow, I am honestly in shock that it is August...it could well be January still and I wouldn't be surprised. I know a lot of us are feeling that way. The last time I wrote was in January 2019; a long time ago, a different "era". But it feels right to only post here when it feels right, you know?
Looking back at that time, I am reminded a lot of who I am at my core – a concept I would say has been challenged since turning 25 almost a year ago. It's funny how time works as you get older, even reflecting on my last post which centred mainly on an experience I had in 2015, an experience that I can't even replicate now given the state of the world and the effects of (yes, I'm going to drop the name), COVID–19. Man, how things have shifted. At least it's been that way for everyone, right?
I've wrestled with that concept for a while now. Since January 2019, I have had so many things happen to me that have significantly altered how I believe life was supposed to look. And it's interesting even putting myself in the shoes of 19-months-ago Josiah, because I'm really attentive to the impact of "adulthood" and how it can shift our understanding of how things are supposed to be. An ever-evolving wrestling with our current selves, the pressures we feel from influences around us, our desires, and our output (PS. I've always been an Oxford comma stan).
I think we all grow up with an idea of what growing up is "supposed to" look like, and I'm not even talking about the cliché frustrations of a) getting married b) finding a home c) having children. Let's face it – millennials are past that (I can't speak for the ever-mysterious "Gen Z" population). But it's true – yes, my friends are doing a, b, and c quite well and I am happy for them, but I find a lot of acceptance in my ability to see and dream past those things. I'll admit it – I almost look at said friends as "succumbing" to the norm, which I know is so silly. The majority of them legitimately want those things, I just can't *fully* relate. It's funny how that tends to oscillate, though. And I think it's worth asking ourselves why our opinions are so fickle in our 20s.
What brings me understanding/grounding these days are the words of my parents and grandparents. People always tell you: words stick. But what they don't tell you is how they stick.
In the Bible, the "Word" is a metaphor for Christ himself: a spoken, written, permanent expression of what it is "to be" (God introduces himself to us as "I AM," another profound mystery that ties word to identity). I find this fascinating, perhaps one of the greatest mysteries and joys of being human. It's why I like writing so much, it's why I enjoy thorough conversation and opinions. Heck, it's the reason why I like watching shows like "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and comparing and contrasting with the women in Johannesburg, Vancouver, and New York City. Yep, I just put the Housewives and Christ in the same paragraph, but stay with me.
Our "expressions" – our unique selves – they will never change. We are the living words of what we are meant to be. God spoke us into existence for such a time as this.
(It's funny - by the way - how much of a "people pleaser" I am. I feel free to write in these blogs because I'm under the impression not many people will read them, but I find I have to catch myself and ask: "Wait, am I writing this because my Evangelical comrades will be reading, searching desperately for a tie-in to Scripture... wait, am I writing this with my atheist friends in mind who I've "sinned" with? Am I writing this for anyone? Hell no, that's why I am still making use of this parentheses, I BELIEVE what I'm saying, it's not for ANYONE. That's all).
Anyways, yes. Words = identity. They equal expression in it what I believe is it's highest form. They are permanent. They are historical. They will live on (if they're meant to). So, as I traverse my adulthood, as I traverse COVID, as I traverse my tears after hearing my family members are in the hospital, my (what I thought was) ultimate dream is rejected (after years of hearing "yes"), my relationships deteriorating as I face choices of being delusional, or moving forward (something I've always struggled with – 2011-2013 were defined by this and I refuse to let it happen again)...I remember WORDS. And you probably do, too. So let me break it down.
I'll never forget my parents BOTH telling me "Josiah, you have leadership on your life. You are a leader."
Conversely, I remember every word that has been used to tear me down, to impact my identity, to make me question my choices – particularly from parental figures.
But listen, the "leader" word was enough to push me over – to PURSUE. REAL. THINGS. When you're told that, and you have the CONFIDENCE to pursue "things", those things are always YOU. Because, as a young person, you don't know what else to pursue. I think in your 30s, 40s, 50s (and I don't know but I'm guessing here), it's easier to "act". But when you're young...you only know how to be excellent with what you have. And I think there's a key there.
We need to encourage our children. We need to let them pursue.
And yes, I am biased in the 'performance' spectrum, because I am a 3 on the enneagram, I am an ENFJ, I am a performer. It doesn't have to look exactly like this for everyone. What I'm saying is – question the words you are clinging to. "Leader" might not be the word that caused you to move forward, but what was? "Creative", "Intelligent", "Visionary"? Who told you those things? Did they also hurt you with other words? Maybe that is a sign their "good words" were worth it.
I don't know who I am, but I also DO know who I am. Since 2016, for example (post traumatic heartbreak), I have gone so back and forth about the idea of kids. Right now, I want them more than ever. But when I was 13, I remember crying for hours, as the shower water poured over my head, at the prospect that maybe God wouldn't give them to me. So, isn't it strange that I convinced myself I don't need kids or want kids, when obviously the pain I felt in that moment would suggest otherwise? Where did that come from?
To be honest, that's a story for another time. But in growing up, I am in awe of how my mind has shifted, and I am intentional about finding out "why". If something feels "off" to you, if you feel like you've conceded to losing a part of your core identity, I would encourage you to revisit that. Because you are a WORD. It's more than your name, it's more than your passions, it's the perfect expression of you.
And by no means do I think we need to waste time finding out who we are too intentionally –– I think life presents us with exactly the formula that we need to navigate back to where we come from. Our origin. A sacred concept shared between us and God.
Am I a "leader"? Maybe not particularly in the common sense of the word, but I knew exactly what my parents and grandparents meant – there was something about that word that stuck like glue in my mind, because I KNEW. I knew what they meant by that. We had a mutual understanding of a spiritual concept of my identity that could only be summarized by a single English word, that wasn't even fully accurate. But that is the beauty of language, a "word" can mean so many different things in the right context – in the contexts of relationships that matter to us. In that moment, my parents and I had a spiritual connection somehow, that I couldn't understand but that I could grasp to.
So, what's next? What does the world have to offer in this uncertain and "unprecedented" time? If you're like me, you've felt like you've "lost out" on something, but maybe now more than ever, we need to revisit our "WHO". This isn't about productivity, but we need to remember who we are and how we've been spoken of, in the ways that resonate deep down. Because, no matter how insecure you are, you KNOW when something is hurtful versus constructive. And only you can determine your interpretations of the hurt and recognize the elements that are truly who you are.
"If you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up because you're part of something way bigger...you are the living word."
– Beyoncé, "BIGGER"
- j o s i a h