collage of the unknown

“I make collages for people of what inspires them. I’d be happy to make one for you!”

This generous offer by a new friend sent a shiver of anxiety through me. The problem is, I don’t know for sure what inspires me, what I like.

Sitting down with my journal and deeply thinking about it, I can trace back through a handful of versions of myself. The free spirit Scotland traveler constantly in a green knit hat and scuffed leather boots. The stressed teacher living in the tiny Portland apartment with a guinea pig. The new wife in Germany who poured energy into friendships, reading, art. Looking back through the layers of my life, I realize that I reinvented myself every year, with new jobs, passion-projects, food tastes. A small army of Emmas stand behind me, varying styles all lined up.

I stop in my tracks. If I change so often, then who am I?

Since my early 20s, I’ve learned to love the person I am. What I’m honing in on is my values. How I treat the people that surround me. How I treat myself.

But, what about personality? Does a person’s taste create their personality? If so, am I a personality-lacking robot?

As all these thoughts fly through my mind, I remember a moment in a Sam’s Club parking lot with my mom. I had returned from my year-long excursion in the United Kingdom, and my mom was asking me about what kinds of food I’d like in the house.

“I’m fine with anything.”

She pressed me harder. “Well, what kind of cereal do you want? How about drinks?”

I racked my brain, feeling frustrated that I couldn’t think of a single thing I liked. This simple question was somehow too hard for me to process.

After reflection, I found that there were a couple reasons for this reaction. For one, I volunteered in a transitional home while overseas, and food choice was not an option while living there. We ate what the community ate. We consumed what was available. After almost a year of this, I had accepted this as my primary lifestyle.

While this is valid, I also found truth in another answer. While I track the major changes throughout my life, I find that I tend to reset. Every time. I act as a mirror of those around me.

I don’t like this part of myself.

Yes, it benefits me by helping me connect with virtually anybody I come in contact with. But, where am I in the midst of these reflections? Have I always adapted to others, and in the process lost myself?

Last month, Josh, Pebbles, and I packed into our red Honda and landed in an empty apartment in a new city. We could be anyone we wanted to be. I set aside having a taste for things for so long, it just didn’t seem important in my nomadic lifestyle. I learned how to not be attached to items. But here, I was facing a living space we would be in for a few years. A city we will settle down in. I couldn’t reflect anyone here; I was looking at myself.

Due to this epiphany, I’ve started master lists of my likes and dislikes, taking stock in what inspires me and trying with all my might to set a true North for myself. Find what little things make me, me.

So, I will ask my friend for that collage someday. I just have to work on rediscovering myself first.

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