What does ‘becoming someone else’ really mean to us?
Let’s face it, in the normal course of our lives, when we think or talk about becoming someone or something, we don’t think about actual transformation. For most of us, the pursuit of ‘becoming someone else’ is driven by ambition, a desire for material gain, or to be one up amongst our peers. We want to become doctors, politicians, wealthy businessmen, movie stars, artists. And of course, we want to be better than others. We painstakingly go about fulfilling our ambitions, and if we succeed, we rejoice momentarily, before dissatisfaction sets in, and we set forth to become someone else. If we fail, we feel restless and ‘stuck’ in our old selves. Until one day, it dawns upon us – we had been changing little by little, all along. It was always about the journey, not the destination.
Everyone and everything is on an evolutionary path. We only need to look towards nature for proof. At this very moment, continents are drifting apart, new planets are being formed somewhere in the universe, and meteors are burning a path in the skies. As it is in the macrocosm, so it is in the micro-universe inside us. At the level of our cells, matter is converting to energy and energy to matter. Many of our body organs are regenerating themselves over a few weeks to a few years. Change is relentless and effortless around us. Yet, so many of us resist it!
Change is hard because it makes us vulnerable. To truly evolve, we have to face and accept our ‘vulnerable self’. So instead, some of us desperately hold onto our childhood selves, stubbornly believing we can bring time to a standstill. We stay within our comfort zone and postpone change while we can, until life deals a blow and forces our hand. Eventually, ALL must evolve; and much like the caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly, we grow into better, more refined, more beautiful versions of ourselves.
Sometimes, life brings us to decisive crossroads, and a single decision changes us forever. The great Indian leader, Mohandas K Gandhi, was not born a ‘Mahatma’, nor had greatness thrust upon him. In fact, in his early years, he was a shy and timid young man struggling to be a successful lawyer. Having arrived in South Africa on a work contract, he came face to face with colour prejudice – a social evil perpetrated by colonial rule. At that time, he had three choices: Go back to India, stay and put up with the humiliation, or stay back and fight. He decided it was his duty to fight the injustice, for the sake of his self-respect, and that of others.
That one decision proved to be a catalyst for his transformation – from a bashful, meek young man to a bold, assertive, yet non-violent force against social evils and colonial oppression that subsequently led India to independence.
History is replete with examples of ordinary men and women who rose to extraordinary heights; as also those who plunged from greatness to the lowest depths, because of decisions that they made. In either case, change was inevitable; simply because you cannot be a constant in a world where everything else is in a state of flux. In the real world, you cannot freeze-frame yourself!
Yes, you can fool yourself into believing there is a fixed, unchanging definition of who you are. I know, because I did just that. For years, I chose to see myself as per what others thought about me. Opinions that my parents, friends, teachers, professors, even bosses had about me were so much louder than the little voice inside me. One day, I found myself trapped, living a life I no longer believed in. Rectifying that was undoubtedly hard, but what helped was the realization that it was I who had created those boxes and fences around me, and it was only up to me to dissolve them. No one else really had that power. Today, there is no single me. I revel in exploring multiple ME’s – the creator in me, the thinker in me, the healer in me.
One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn is to give up making judgments about others. It was the easiest thing in the world to form an opinion about someone, put a virtual stamp on their foreheads, and move on, not realizing what a great disservice I was doing towards them. For they were on their own special journey of transformation, just like me.
Let us not confine ourselves and others within definitions and labels. Let us not hold on to personas. Instead, let us be what nature ordained us to be. Just as a tree gracefully bends in the path of a storm, just as a river meanders across the valley before it meets the sea, wholeheartedly embrace what comes your way, rather than fighting it. Be flexible and malleable to endless transformation. In the words of Bruce Lee – “Be water, my friend”.