There's just something about this time of the year. Perhaps it's dawn's new bite: as chilly as a flipped mood. Or perhaps it's the new slant of the daylight: the new trajectory the sunflowers follow across the sky, their faces like a circus performer's spinning plates.
Regardless, for the last five years, the resignation of summer always takes me back to 2015.
That was the year everything changed. That was the year I took the fragments of myself and attempted to hastily cobble them back together—but couldn't. Like a prank of a puzzle, the too-bent pieces I had left to work with didn't fit into the puzzle of Who I Was, no matter how hard I threatened or smashed.
I used to know Who I Was, but that year, everything changed. Was I everything he'd told me I was, or was I better than all that? Was it better to listen and accept, or ignore and reinvent? What would everybody else in my life think? Did they even matter?
There's a time in life when, I believe, we all feel this way—as though we can't see ourselves clearly anymore, our identities faded and blanched by the opinion of others. We're told what we've done and who we are, and any internal protest of, "No! That's not me! That's not who I am at all," is a whisper lost amidst screams.
The only way to accurately perceive yourself is to cut yourself off. To self-isolate. To exchange the company of others for the company of Who You Really Are—uninfluenced by judgement and unswayed by expectation. To sink deep enough to witness the raw, organic material that is Who You Really Are, before it's molded into Who The World Wants You To Be.
In 2015, I did just this. I crawled inside myself, dismissing the outside world, and asked myself about Who I Really Was. More importantly, I asked myself, "Who were we before they told us who we are? Who were we before he showed up?"
What I should've known is that this isn't a question to be asked once. It's a question to ask all of the time. Who We Are isn't carved in stone. Who We Are is ever-changing and evolving, a thing to always study and consider—the only school we'll never graduate from, the best time we'll ever spend, the compass leading to epiphany.
To this day, I feel I constantly misrepresent myself. To this day, I let my people-pleasing ways erode my self-identity. To this day, I struggle to reconnect with Who I Am, but that's because I still forget to prioritize that quality time.
I still forget . . . until it's late-summer, when the world tilts and I tilt with it.