Who are you?
Can you sit back and answer that question? Who are you?
I would have easily said, to anyone, “Call me Ralph. I grew up in my community of Shishmaref. For 18 years, I learned the traditions and culture of my people. Even though I grew up without running water I was given the privilege of being raised by a community.”
Notice how I mentioned I grew up without running water. This is a key in my growth. I don’t mean it was the key in my growth. Notice how I mentioned I was raised by a community and their values, traditions and culture.
I learned how to exist from those I saw on a daily basis. Each individual was greeted by their first name or nickname. When I saw someone for the first time in my day I said, “Hi.”
Imagine greeting each and every person you see in your day with a smile or wave of saying hello. I remember passing by certain people’s homes with a loud and friendly, “Hi Skip!” or, “Hi Skipper-doodle!” Every morning I was greeted by a kind face, a face happy to see me.
We all lived a life that was beyond ordinary. Every day was a day filled with opportunity and chance. We lived on an island, which was also lived on by many generations before us. The foundation of which we grew placed a bounty on sharing and respect. From our ancestors, we all knew every person had the same chances of mortality. Mortality definitely pushed you to find the small opportunities in life to share the humor.
My father is notorious for giving another person the opportunity to be the center of a day’s worth of laughter and humility. The most recent targets of my father’s abilities were teachers. He spent most of his day providing services and a piece of mind to those who flew out to an isolated community to teach. My father found the moments in life to teach those from a professional background the small, yet valuable, lessons. He sought to teach respect and to share what you have with those around you.
While my father shared his gift of loosening up a group of people, my mother shared her time and effort. She is an introvert. Therefore, her thoughts and words were given the value of time. She didn’t say a word without giving it thought or consideration. Rather than making light of a situation, my mother sought to give imagination and ideas to those that were open to receiving.
In her own unique way, my mother shared common sense and logic to unveil a deeper meaning. She gave others her attention. Before speaking, she’d respect a person’s opinion, thought or experience. Her attention was the most obvious way anyone can show their respect for others.
My parents are the focal of what I consider a community that raised me. They saw me every day, morning and night. Both knew I was stubborn, yet thoughtful, which I think only helped them realize I was listening. I had my own ideas but they certainly were tested by what I heard from those around me, including the environment. It was every night that I questioned at least one area in my life, which may or may not have been a part of my experiences. I grew up hearing answers from thoughtful people, a caring people.
It was at this point in my life where I thought I needed to grow. I thought I needed to be someone who filled another role in my community.
Ever since I was contentious about life and the environment, I was afraid of who I needed to be. I imagined growing into something that conformed to an idea. For the past 10 years of my life, I came to a conclusion. I needed to fit a role.
Today, I am not convinced anyone should fit a role. Rather, everyone should make their own role to a life that has never been experienced. I agree that there are roles of being a son or parent but there isn’t a procedure we all must adhere to. There isn’t a procedure to life.
Life is bigger than any role we think we play. Therefore, we shouldn’t go about living to fill a role. At least I’ve come to the thought that a role shouldn’t be the goal of our life. We should imagine what we could make of our role in life. There lies the difference.
I was conforming to an idea I had. Every day for the past six years I worked to fulfill that idea I had. My education was directed towards a role that I thought I could live to, a role that would take my life.
Before now, I was afraid of who I needed to be and what role I had in life. Today, I realized my role isn’t behind what gives my life meaning. I must continue to grow. I must continue to no longer be afraid of not conforming to the idea of what I should be.
We all have a role but those roles do not accumulate into the full meaning to life.