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Know Yourself

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Chris practices free writing which often produces humorous or introspective results with practical applications to living life more fully.

Sorry, the bathroom mirror is the only mirror in my extended stay apartment in Albuquerque, NM.
Sorry, the bathroom mirror is the only mirror in my extended stay apartment in Albuquerque, NM. | Source

Who Are You?

Tell me about yourself, said I to the man in the mirror. He just stood there staring back, of course. We both continued staring for a while and as we did so, I had a few thoughts run through my head.

Who Am I?

Who is that man in the mirror? Who am I? There are a variety of ways to define ourselves.

  • Occupation.
  • Nationality.
  • Race.
  • Gender.
  • Marital status.
  • As a Parent.
  • Who we know.
  • What we know.
  • Where we’ve been.
  • What we’ve done.
  • Wealth.
  • Politics
  • Hobbies

These aren’t inconsequential things, but are they who we are? Do they define us? Probably some of them do to an extent. Marriage and parenthood are good examples.

Sunset over Lake Michigan

Sunset over Lake Michigan
Sunset over Lake Michigan | Source

I am the father of two grown sons. Oh how I loved raising those boys. I used to try to grab a nap in the afternoon on weekends. I’d lay on the couch and pull the blanket up over my head and doze off. The boys couldn’t resist messing with me. I’d lay perfectly still until they got close, then I would shoot my hand out from under the blanket and grab them. I’d pull them under the blanket with me and they would laugh and fight to get away from the couch monster. That was me, the Couch Monster.

We lived near the beach on Lake Michigan. In fact, my wife’s Grandma lived on waterfront nearby. I would take our big, cabin tent down to the beach and set it up so that the door faced the water. We were shielded from the city streets and noise by a house, trees and a few hundred yards. Lying in the tent or sitting by the beach fire, we may as well have been in the wilderness. In our minds, we were. But the boys are grown. I’m still their father, but the couch monster is gone.

I was the husband of a woman you would have adored. She was simply the most wonderful part of my life. She’s gone now. No, not by divorce but by cancer. It’s been five years and eight months. How can that be? When a spouse passes away, part of us dies too. Marriage actually did define me. Being Sandy’s husband said something about me. I suppose that’s what is meant by two becoming one. But I’m not a husband anymore.

For fourteen years I was either in college preparing for or actively involved in Christian Ministry. I was in a Christian college for four years, a missionary for three years, and a pastor for seven years. I preached, taught, counseled, cried with, married, buried, sang, testified, prayed and evangelized. But I’m not a pastor anymore. In fact, I hold only to the loosest concept of a deity these days. I choose to let him/her/whatever be what they are rather than what I dictate them to be through theological dogma. That’s what I do, not what I think you should do. But I am not in that profession anymore.

Now I am a laboratory technician. I travel around the country from lab to lab filling in when they are shorthanded. I like it. It pays well, and I get to see a lot of the country this way. But it doesn’t define me. It’s what I do, not who I am.

I'm Not Defined By What I Do For a Living

Me at work, doing what I do
Me at work, doing what I do | Source

I think that the concepts I’m looking for, ones that define who a person is, are ethereal, not physical or even emotional. They are spiritual. I don’t mean that in a religious way, but in a non-material way. They go with me from place to place, from time to time in my life. They have been with me in some form for my lifetime. These are the things that define me. Here are some of these ethereal qualities that I have identified to greater or lesser degrees in my own life.

  • Adventurous. I don’t simply like to go camping or kayaking. I want to explore.
  • Integrity/honesty. Now this one has been frequently AWOL in my life, especially when I was drinking. These days I’d rather just be transparent. It is so much more peaceful, both inside and outside.
  • Selflessness. That’s a tough one when you are like me. I am single, I live on the road. I spend a great deal of time alone. The consequence is that I find I am very self centered, self absorbed. I have to force myself to talk to others about them rather than about me.
  • Generosity. Am I willing to part with my wealth for the good of another human being?
  • Edifying/encouraging. Do I enrich the lives I come into contact with or do I drain people emotionally?
  • Contemplative. I really do try to see past the superficial, shallow world around us. There is a rhythm, a hum to nature as though it were a machine at the center of all that is, creating beauty, splendor, romance, kinship of man to beast to realm. I spend time with her, listening to her, trying to understand.


from someplace between who I once was and who I am becoming

As I returned from the realm of introspection, I was still standing in front of the mirror. The same man stood staring at me, as if to say, “Did you want something, or can I leave now?” I let the old boy go. As I turned away, I summed up my thoughts.

I am not a reflection in a mirror. I am real. I exist, and I am becoming. These are the concepts, the ideas, though ethereal in nature, that I am interested in these days. Since I don’t have a specific home base, I choose to refer to myself as being from someplace between who I once was and who I am becoming. In that regard, I have to set aside the expectation that I will wake up one morning having BECOME. No, for me, in this lifetime, I will always be becoming, growing, learning. It’s what makes life worth living.


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    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      Hey that is what I do for a living right now. I just cut two waterbaths full yesterday. Research stinks. Anyway, you are more than your profession, I agree with that statement, thank you for sharing yourself with us. Growing with the family is one of the most satisfying things I have ever experienced. I like how you inventoried yourself, I am changing professions to try my hand at teaching High School Science and needed to do a little inventorying myself. Jamie

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      Beautifully written and thoughtfully introspective. I enjoyed learning about your life's adventures. We are not what we do for a living. I found that out when I retired from a corporate job. It's difficult when you go out socially because the first thing people ask is "Where do you work?" I tell them I'm a writer and that brings some odd looks, too. I loved your photos.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      I came back to Pin your picture as it is so beautiful.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Deb, It's all about the journey isn't it? Humility, I think, is the secret to this. We have to be able to admit we aren't there yet. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Chris, I have to identify 100 [percent. When I am there, I will left everyone know. In the meantime, I am on my journey.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Mel Carriere, I'm plaeased that you enjoyed reading this hub. And thanks for taking time to leave your gracious comment as well.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      7 years ago from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado

      Very wise and inspirational comments. Sorry to hear about your lovely wife. I too have great memories of being assaulted by my boys while attempting to nap on the couch. Great hub!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Jodah, I could not ask for more from my efforts with this hub. Thank you for speaking up. I am so glad it had a positive impact. The old guy in the mirror gave some good advice.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Chris, I enjoyed everything about this hub. You really revealed yourself to the readers painting a good picture of 'who you are'. You made me look at myself in the mirror as well. Not happy with all I saw, but the old guy looking back seemed to say "Don't be too hard on yourself. You've done the best you can. Just keep trying to be better."

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Thanks Anna. The photo you are referring to is one I took in Montana. It is at a place called Jewel Basin southwest of Glacier National Park. It is a beautiful area where I spent several days backpacking and camping. Early one morning after breaking camp (it had rained all night) I came to the top of a rise on the trail and this scene stretched out before me. I felt the black and white version was the most interesting. Thanks for noticing it.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      sallybea, Thanks for those thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. As for anyone knocking at my door, I'll keep the light on. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      A thought provoking, interesting and heartfelt prose. I think you are right and we are all on a journey of discovery.

      Your photographs were beautiful. I thought the black and white one with the cloud cover really was exceptional. As if we were looking down on the world.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      7 years ago from Norfolk

      I love everything about this piece of writing. I can see that you are evolving everyday - what a lovely consequence of your living. In many ways I feel exactly the same. Careful, you may have every available women come knocking at your door.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ann, I'm glad you found the article to be helpful and interesting. Solitude can be adjusted to, although at times it is uncomfortable. I suppose that is as it should be. I appreciate your support.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      I love the construction, the content and the philosophy of this hub. I especially like 'There is a rhythm, a hum to nature'. Becoming, growing and learning certainly are the things which make life worthwhile. I wish you luck in your future travels and adventures and I admire your tenacity. Solitude is good sometimes but I'm not sure I could put up with it for long; however, I do love to commune with nature in peaceful, tranquil surroundings. It puts things into perspective. Great read; thanks for sharing this with us. Up, useful, interesting, awesome and shared. Ann


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