And the Question is: Was I More Alive Then Than I am Now?


This morning I listened to the latest podcast from The Unmistakable Creative by Srinivas Rao.

I've always enjoyed this podcast. Srini has the ability to get some of the most personal, insightful interviews possible from some of the most interesting people around. But today's episode, an interview with "novelist, filmmaker and breast cancer fighter" Allison Gryphon, seems unusually meaningful. Allison and Srini talk about how her experience with cancer enabled her to become more authentic, more herself.

This reminded me one of my favorite songs, "Objects of My Affection" by Peter Bjorn and John. The lyrics go like this:

I remember when, when I first moved here 
A long time ago
'Cause I heard some song I used to hear back then
A long time ago 
I remember when, even further back
In another town 
'Cause I saw something written I used to say back then 
Hard to comprehend 

And the question is, was I more alive 
Then than I am now? 
I happily have to disagree
I laugh more often now, I cry more often now
I am more me 

But of course some days, I just lie around 
And hardly exist 
And can't tell apart what I'm eating 
From my hand or my wrist
'Cause flesh is flesh, flesh as flesh as flesh
The difference is thin
But life has a certain ability or beating new 
Life into me 
So I breathe it in 
It says here we are, and we all are here
And you still can make sense
If you just show up and present an honest face
Instead of that grin

And the other day, this new friend of mine 
Said something to me 
Just because something starts differently
Doesn't mean it's worth less 
And I soaked it in, how I soaked it in
How I soaked it in 
And just as to prove how right he was 
Then you came 
So I'm gonna give, yes I'm gonna give
I'm gonna give you a try
So I'm gonna give, yes I'm gonna give
I'm gonna give you a try

The first time I heard this song, I was a college student struggling through a situation that, for the first time in my life, made me feel less "me."  (I won't burden you with unnecessary personal details, but I'm sure you've experienced at least one similar quarter-life crisis.) I always listen deeply to song lyrics, and the words "I laugh more often now, I cry more often now, I am more me" made me stop in my tracks -- I think I was walking between classes and startled a squirrel with my sudden halt -- and evaluate my life. For days I thought about where I had been and where my life was headed: personally, academically, professionally, all of it. I didn't like the conclusions I derived from pondering the question of whether or not I had felt more alive in the past than in the present, and whether or not I was on track to feel more alive in the future.

The question of whether you are alive, being yourself, and living an authentic life, isn't a question of whether you are happy or sad. Real life is full of beauty and pain, birth and death, triumph and failure. You need the light to see the dark, and vice versa. Becoming more yourself means that you embrace all of it: the light, dark, and grey of your life and others. You allow yourself to mourn for the sorrow and rejoice for the bliss. You laugh more often. You cry more often. You let yourself be you.

I realized that I had become too absorbed with doing and had lost track of being. I no longer let myself be myself -- in fact, I had even forgotten a little bit about who I really was. I had to make it a priority to live a life that enabled me to not only be true to myself, but would also help me become my best truest self. So this song became one of my mantras.

I've made a lot of mistakes, and I've the experienced usual loss and struggles that we all go through in life. And my personality lends itself to continuous introspection and intermittent quarter-life crises. But now I see those tough times as opportunities to re-evaluate were I've been and where I'm headed. To this day, whenever I get discouraged, I try to ask the question, "was I more alive then than I am now?" I try not to ask whether or not I am happy or sad, content or dissatisfied. I try to ask if I am more me.

How about you? How can you be more, well... you?

photo credit: Kara Allyson via photopin cc