I was hanging out with an old friend Monday night and he asked me that question.
After spending the day doing laundry and delaying a much-needed shower, I got a text from a friend telling me he was free and he wanted to hang out. My schedule had cleared up too, so I decided to go. I figured I could probably get a free meal from the whole thing, which was important because my bank account has not been especially robust these past few days.
We went to Washington Square Park (a park I discovered I kind of hate) and went to a movie theater in Union Square. Much of the walk to the theater was filled with statements about how long it’s been and questions about who I am now (all statements and questions I hate).
Finally, we made it to a fancy pizza place. While we sat with the food in front of us, he finally asked the fateful question: So, tell me, Danielle, who do you want to be?
Upon hearing the question, I was immediately filled with rage. We argued for a few minutes about why I didn’t want to answer such a crap question (if I were a more edgy Christian I wouldn’t be using the word ‘crap’) and eventually gave up because he clearly wanted to make a point that I didn’t care to hear and I couldn’t explain my disdain for the question clearly enough. So now, on this blog, I will explain my hatred for his dumb question.
A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have hated his question. I probably would’ve leapt at the chance to divulge my life philosophy and explain the type of person I wanted to be. But now, that’s probably the last thing I want to do. I don’t care about who people want to be. I barely care about who I want to be. Because all that tells you is who my ideal person is.
There are things I want to do in my life. There are certain values I want to uphold. And I care about being seen as the person I want to be. But in all honesty – and this may sound a little haughty – I am the person I want to be.
Like I said, I have goals and dreams and interests and stuff. And I can always think of ways to better myself. But every morning when I wake up, I make decisions that set me on the path to being the person I am by the end of the day. And the person I am at the end of the day is the person I wanted to be, subconsciously or not, that day.
The question for me is less, who do you want to be, and more, who are you? When I wrong someone I can’t apologize to them and say “sorry, I just haven’t been able to live up to the person I want to be. Forgive me.” That’s crap. When I wrong someone, I have to admit to them and myself that that’s who I am, for better or worse.
I’m not advocating some kind of staunch individualism and obstinacy á la Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. That’s a dangerous philosophy. I’m saying that we’re imperfect people and sometimes focusing on who we want to be separates us from who we are and who we can be. I want to be generous with my time, money, and skills. But wanting it doesn’t make it so. And wanting it doesn’t absolve me from guilt when I’m stingy with all those resources.
I’ve given up trying to figure out who I want to be and instead replaced that practice with being, doing, acting, and reacting. And hopefully, sometimes, I end up becoming the person I can be.