Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finding Yourself

I just finished watching "The Brave One", a film starring Jodie Foster. It was about a radio host in New York, living an idyllic life and loving fiance. The two of them are attacked by a group of three thugs; she is brutally beaten and he is killed. The movie is about her emotional recovery/metamorphosis. I shed a tear at the end.

There were things that I just loved. For example, the use of "The Answer" by Sarah McLaughlin to bookend the emotional transformation in the movie. I adore this song; I had it on a repeating playlist while I was writing my thesis. Consequently, the use of it had a lot of emotional resonance for me. Terrence Howard was also terrific. I recently started seeing him on "Law and Order: Los Angeles", so it was nice to see him in other work. There are so few roles for black men, where they are believably intelligent and sensitive. Finally, Jodie Foster likes to do films on topics that are liminal, that explore the gray area between two categories, such as guilt and innocence.

The central theme of "The Brave One" is the question of how one recovers from a violent traumatic event. The answer that the film gives is: You don't. But you do go. You become a different person. A stranger. You find a way to live as that stranger.

This was especially poignant to me right now, because I'm trying to figure out what to do next in my career. I'm reading books like "What Color is Your Parachute?" and "Soul Mapping". The process is simultaneously awkward and exciting. It's awkward to be doing this at this age and stage of my life. But it's also exciting to discover myself and think about the possibilities.

The movie reminded me that finding yourself is not something that you do just once and then you're done with it. You do it multiple times over the life span. People change. Traumatic events or dramatic turning points can result in big changes. The passing of time can bring about small changes. The changes accumulate until it's a new person.

When my grandmother was in her 90s, she broke her hip. We subsequently moved her to a seniors' home. Visiting her was always startling, because the way that the residents spent their days was so different from how my peers spent their days. Rather than hustling and bustling, the seniors were mostly sitting. I had a hard time reconciling the grandmother that I knew as a dynamic entrepreneur with the woman in the wheelchair who ate too many wafer cookies. After some hard looking and soul searching, I concluded that these people were in a different phase of their lives, a phase that was a valid part of the lifecycle. To assume that they were unhappy would be projecting myself in their place, rather than understanding the place that they were in. My grandmother didn't do much, but she was probably go with that, after a lifetime of doing. Whereas I was at the other end of the life span and all full of burning desire to do. Although we didn't talk about it, I think she liked the nursing home. She liked the regularity and routine. My parents would bring her to their house on the weekends and she was always eager to return to the seniors' residence. She was in a different place in her life and she had a new self.

We are always changing. After a certain amount of change, one is a new person. The new person can be more or less strange. With more strangeness comes a greater disconnect and a need to find yourself. Of course, one can always not find oneself and be in blissful ignorance, but I prefer the life considered.

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