Do you remember being asked the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
I have noticed that many people are enamored by watching babies – little people who are far away from being ‘grown up.’ For babies, everything is new; sights, sounds, smells, touch. Babies continuously explore the things around them while experimenting with how their bodies can move. When we watch babies we get to partake in their curiosity and joy of continuous discovery in the present moment.
And then, a baby reaches an age when she is considered to be a child. Adults in her life begin to think about her long-term future. Invariably she is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Up until now life had been a continuous exploration of new things but this question suggests an endpoint- a time when we are all done, all grown up; when we’ve got it all figured out. I wonder, how does asking this question or thinking this way, shape one’s sense of self? I know for me, it created a sense that at some point in time, I would be ‘grown up’ and would have it all figured out.
I think many of us bring this same attitude of being ‘grown up’ to how we live in and with our bodies. As babies and young children we run and play and explore in all sorts of directions. We don’t even really think about it. And then, we begin our steps towards being grown up. We wear shoes, we sit in chairs often, we wear restrictive clothes. Instead of enjoying our natural movement throughout the day, we schedule specific times for exercise and often choose movements or use machines that restrict our range of motion. In our quest to be ‘grown up,’ we unconsciously limit how we move and experience the world.
The cultural norms that prevail in the society that I, along with most of us who read this blog reside, encourage us to turn our bodies and our being into a product –something that looks a specific way and produces specific results. This time of year we are especially bombarded with these messages. We are supposed to buy products that will make us look a certain way and at the same time we must be productive so that we can reach an elusive endpoint that the smiling faces in the advertisements tell us is happiness.
But there is no endpoint – except perhaps death. Our bodies and our minds are continuously changing and I think these changes are endlessly fascinating. At different stages of life we have different abilities that we can continue to explore with delight and curiosity. We continually have the opportunity to grow and move in new ways.
There is a well-known dialogue in the biblical book of Exodus where two characters in the story – Elohim (God) and Moshe (Moses) – have an intense and direct conversation:
Moshe asks Elohim how he should answer when the Israelites ask what is Elohim’s name. Elohim replies, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.”
Most English renditions of the bible translate God’s reply as, “I am what I am.” However, verb tenses in Hebrew don’t always correlate directly to English and I think a more accurate translation is “I am becoming what I am becoming.”
I like to consider how life could be if we embrace the second translation.