A few years out of college, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had a job that I used to describe as “kind of like the television show The Office but not funny.” I knew immediately that this particular career wasn’t for me, but I stuck around trying to learn what I could while I figured things out. I did learn some things about leadership and team building, but mostly I learned what not to do if I wanted to cultivate those qualities. I did, however, make some great friends—and they made that whole period of my life bearable.
One Monday morning, I arrived at the office to be greeted by smiles and whispers. Several of my coworkers asked if I’d done anything interesting over the weekend, barely able to contain their giggles. Something was up, but I wasn’t in on the joke. Finally, during a mid-morning meeting, my boss handed me a photocopied newspaper article about a man two towns over who had been arrested for driving through a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru without pants. His name was, coincidentally enough, John Greco.
Now, of course, that wasn’t me. I don’t like using the drive-thru. But it illustrates how quickly we can conflate a name with a person’s identity. Our names can conjure a collection of memories, perceptions, and impressions. I discovered this when it came to naming our two boys. Certain otherwise great names brought to mind someone Laurin or I knew, and we thought twice.
But we are more than our names. We are more than the sum of others’ imperfect impressions of us. Each of us has an identity founded in our creation and fully realized in our destiny. And in between those two points in time, we are on a quest. The lives we live shape our identity. Our experiences and our relationships make us who we are. As we search, we look for reflections everywhere, for a friend with whom we might share a “You too? I thought I was the only one!”
I find this quest for identity to be magical. Somehow, over time, we transform from what we were to what we will be, for good or for evil. All the while, our wounds can prepare us, desensitize us, or distort us. Our friends and enemies build us up and tear us down. But in the end, we become something new.
Before that happens, though, we search for meaning and a place to belong. And while most of us want to fit in, we also want to know what makes us special, what makes us stand apart from everyone else. We stretch. We strain. We struggle. And we emerge, some of us more bloodied than others.
If you’ve been reading these posts over the past few weeks, you know I’ve been thinking a lot about stories. It strikes me that we tend to think of great stories as being able to transport us to a new place or experience. But I think that’s only part of it. When we arrive for our new adventure, we want to find someone familiar. We need to see a bit of ourselves in the characters we meet. That may be somewhat narcissistic, but it’s human nature.
Have you ever longed to see the wider world (or galaxy)? You just might be Luke Skywalker. Ever hoped someone would come along and tell you you’re special? You could be Harry Potter. Or have you ever done something for which you’re deeply ashamed? You may be Edmund Pevensie. (Don’t worry. There’s redemption in his story.)
My first novel, Plunge, is up on Kindle Scout right now. (I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up!) I hope I can share the whole story with you soon. And I’m hoping that when you’re able to read it, you’ll see yourself in it—at least a little bit. If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to read the first few pages and nominate the book. Also, please share the link, if you’re so inclined. I’d sure appreciate your support.