“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Each and every one of us has an idea of ourselves. We think we’re outgoing, creative, sensitive, intelligent, opinionated, demanding, happy, helpful, aloof. Sometimes these qualities are positive, sometimes they’re negative. We all have a certain roster of people, places, things, memories that matter more to us than others. We lead our day-to-day life functioning within the parameters of how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how others see us.
Then, one day, something occurs. Sometimes it’s huge, sometimes it’s small. All of a sudden, everything changes. Life isn’t what it used to be. In this moment, whether it’s amazing or terrible, you know deep in your bones that nothing will never be the same. These moments are different for everyone, and they reverberate inside long after they’ve happened. Whether it’s a child being born, a friend dying before his time, fame appearing, money disappearing – it’s impactful. It shakes us to our core so deep, that our identity changes.
In moments or in months, our priorities shift. We become strangers to ourselves. We forget who we were and what we even wanted prior to this point in time. Yes, these jilting moments awaken a stranger within us, but they also causes us to question the flip-side – who is that stranger I used to be now that I’ve changed? Why did that thing matter to me? Why didn’t that other thing matter to me? What was I doing? Who was I then? Who am I now? One of the most interesting layers to contemplate is that this new “stranger” who we feel we are now, was always there, hidden… somewhere.
These moments incite an intense self reflection, one that takes a while to reckon with. Perhaps if we’re lucky, it’s a self-reflection that never ends. Imagine: what if we greeted ourselves every day as a stranger. Would this be beneficial? Detrimental? Would it encourage us to live in the present, recognizing ourselves as a constantly-morphing being?
What was the last time a single event shook you to your core? How did it change you? Do you braid your past selves and current selves together, or do they exist separately from each other?