Becoming / by Liz Brown

As last winter—the 2016 one—melted into spring, I was fairly sure who I was. A little lonely, a little over five-foot tall (kudos if you caught that LANY reference), corporate-job-by-day, artist-by-night. I listened mostly to Taylor Swift and had recently downloaded Apple Music (Spotifty doesn’t have Taylor Swift) and discovered James Bay—fondly called “bae.” I’d begun listening to podcasts and often ate smoothies for lunch. My hair was shorter than it had been in 4 years and I tend to do that with changes—all at once. New job, new hair, new songs. I was like that with tattoos this year. None, for over 25 years, then 2 in 6 weeks. I don't do things halfway.

Last year, my identity and place here were clear. I felt like I knew how I belonged. Where I belonged. My context became my identity.

Then slowly, different areas of my life began to unravel. First, between traveling and my Bible study moving to a different suburb, I lost touch. But I think it had begun far before then: the loneliness. We never saw each other past Monday and no one really knew my fears or dreams—nor I theirs. That’s not to say they’re entirely to blame: I haven’t been a good listener. I haven’t asked good questions. I have been busy to a fault.

Then between our varying schedules and busyness—that word again—and some differences of opinion that shouldn’t have been great but were, I grew further from some old friends and the identity I so tied up within them. I was one of them. Collectively, I had been. My identity had been tied up in my community. But who was I alone?

And somewhere along this summer and that path, I met some newer friends and I am scared that I’ll become the same tagalong to a “them.” Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s beautiful to be part of something together. But I don’t want that something to be all of me. Whether that be a new friend group or a band or a dream. I become like those around me and I don’t know how to stop it.

I don’t know what I like anymore. I mean, I do. But I don’t know what is me and what is just shadows of those around me. Who am I alone? Who am I in the silence? All I can hear is the tapping of my fingers against the black keys. I want to be more okay with silence. I don’t want to be so busy.

To an extent we are all the last wave slapping the shore, the product of the oceans we’ve traveled behind us. None of us is entirely cut off from influences. We’re all shaped by our friends and the people who make our coffee and the people who bag our groceries and the color we paint our rooms and our breakfasts and whether we walk or bike or drive to work and how often we make eye contact and the books we read and the shoes we wear. And we are all collectively becoming something. Somebody. You don’t become an individual alone and I know that in my head. I know I’m not alone even when I feel like it and I know that even when I become more myself, it’s not without outside influences.

So what now? First, Liz, slow down. Become okay with silence. Learn who you are alone. Then look at how you are living. Surround yourself with food and words and books and films and humans who are making you into the person who you desire to become and people who you can encourage to become lovelier selves, too. Together. Together isn’t bad, Liz. You don’t have to do it alone. Remember that.