Enjoy this vision of a very young Robert De Niro from the movie Taxi Driver, practicing the line that is also the heading of this post. Now let it go, because he’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I am talking about is the importance of knowing ourselves. “You talking to me?” Yes, maybe I am.
Too many of us strike out into the adult world without enough sense of who we are, and what we want. Things like what we value, what we need, what we have to offer aren’t just quizzes in a Cosmo magazine: they’re the underpinnings of building a life you intended to have.
But many of us walk out of the door and just turn automatically in some direction – without much of a destination in mind. Yogi Berra famously said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
A lot of us take a long time to figure this out. Yes, I’ve got my hand raised. If our late arrival to this understanding only affected ourselves, that wouldn’t be so bad. But we drag a lot of people with us when we experiment and explore during our relationships. Some of this is meant to be pre-work.
Until and unless you have at least some of the core aspects of personality, preferences, and pet-peeves discovered in yourself, how can you know what you are offering to another? And how can you possibly know what you want from a friendship or partnership with another, if you are just winging it?
What do you value? What are your strengths? What do you want to get better at? Where do you most easily find your connection to the Being that is your God? How important is physical appearance to you (your own, and another’s)? What, if anything, would you be willing to change about yourself if someone wanted you to? How would you feel if someone wanted you to change to be with him or her? Do you want to validate your upbringing by raising your kids the way you were raised? (“It was good enough for me…”). Or do you want to do a 180° from how you were raised? Is saving money important to you? What have you always wanted to do? Where have you always wanted to go? How much togetherness do you require – how much solitude? Do you yet know that what bugs you about someone else is probably at its core what troubles you about you?
This is a lifetime’s work, spending some part of every day very aware, in quiet reflection, acceptance and presence. The exploring, growing, experimenting and risk-taking, the making mistakes and engaging compassionately with yourself is never really done. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have it all figured out (you never will) before you let yourself open your heart, your soul and your life to another human being. You’ll miss half the fun! Have a good grasp, though, of the essentials: your essentials.