Updated: Aug 16, 2019
Let’s address the elephant in the room, knowing all there is to know about oneself and therefore being able to develop the truest and most sincere sense of self may never actually happen!
However, this by no means negates the pursuit of who we are. The pursuit in and of itself along with the accompanying “answers” discovered ultimately frees us from the confines of societal expectations allowing one to freely navigate life. THIS IS WHAT WE ALL YEARN FOR!
There are two major factors at play, nature and nurture. The age old question still exists, how much influence stems from the environment and how much genetics and the answer remains the same.. both. An individual’s personality is considerably set by childhood’s end however throughout our existence, environmental conditions indeed influence the way in which genes are expressed. Genes are like blueprints for the arrangement of characteristics an individual will acquire (blue eyes from mom and brown hair from dad.) For example, every individual possesses a variation of a stress response gene. Given that variation along with one’s upbringing and experiences, if an individual has not been prepared to deal with stress, the associated gene may predispose you to be more sensitive to such stressful environments than others.
This leads us to the next and very important idea.. The more awareness we obtain, the better equipped we may be to combat the discontent we may feel. Ironically enough, I am currently reading Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday when I happen to come across one of the character’s dealing with great discontent from coming back from WWII. His entire identity has been shaken up.
“Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the bastard Time. The end of life is not so terribly far away—you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch—and your mind says, ‘Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?” All of these, of course, are the foundation of man’s greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. ‘What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?’ The finish line had meant nothing to him except that he had wanted to crowd more living into the stretch.”
This extremely intense and complex journey that every single individual experiences involves exactly what Steinbeck proclaims, “What has my life meant so far and what can it mean in the time left to me?” This is unbelievably profound and something that every individual will question but most will never answer.