I delivered this speech three years ago at Elan Toastmasters meeting. The time limit was 10-12 minutes and the objective was to ‘inspire your audience’. I hope this speech leaves you a little more self-aware and a little more content with the findings.
On one fine day like this about four years ago, I was sitting in my hostel room preparing for an exam next morning, the last of that semester. Having mugged all the formulae which I knew would never be used again in my life after passing that exam; I went to bed at around three in the morning. The droning cramming voice of my roommate woke me up at seven. I got ready and arranged my pen, hall ticket and some piece of my mind and went to the hall. After the paper, it being the last one, my unexplained urge of doing ‘something’ got the better of me and I decided to take a break. It was around 5 PM when I just wrote a note to my roommate and hostel attendant saying, I will be out for some time and left. Without a penny in my pocket and idea in my mind as to where I am headed, I walked out of my college main gate and stood at the bus stop.
Thanks to my DTC bus pass, I was allowed to board one and I sat at the last seat, enjoying the most precious commodity of life – ‘Time’. After about an hour or so, the conductor came up to me and asked, ‘Kahan utarna hai’ (Where do you want to get down?) My audio-visual senses came back to life and I realized that the bus was empty but for me and I did not know where exactly I was. Nevertheless, being the brave hearted soul I am, I got down and started walking towards what looked like a public park to me. I went in and sat at a bench staring at nothing. Friends, please do not start judging me as an eccentric yet, I was just trying to be with myself. There was an old man, must have been around 60, sitting at the park bench, after what I assume must have been his evening walk. He looked at me, gazing at the grass for apparent lack of anything better to do and started off a conversation. What am I doing there when the usual crowd for a public park at seven in the evening includes kids, old men and women and school teachers. A little later I asked him – ‘Who are you?’ and he said – My dear child, now this is a profound question which generations of wise men & women before me have failed to answer correctly yet!
He had me thinking. (Yes, yet again). Today, I am here to share with you, what that man shared with me that one fine day four years back on a wooden bench in a public park.
Who are you? A man, a woman, a teacher, a student, an accountant, a service professional, a toastmaster, a son, a father, a lover, a seeker… You are who you think you are. You are what you want to be. These were the sort of questions running in my head while this old man, with grey hair and wrinkled face was smiling gently at the amazed expression on my face.
“I am in the process of finding myself”, he resumed. “I am searching for this answer to know what I want to be”.
“And why is that so important”? My curiosity had been kindled by then.
“Finding yourself is important, to know what are you doing and why? What you want to do and why? To be self-sufficient, to do without expecting something in return, to be grateful to what others have done for you, to know and do everything which includes you yourself anywhere in any means, you need to know who or what are ‘You’? Confused? Let me help you there”, he said. “What do you want”?
Well, now that is a strange question from a stranger, isn’t it? I took some time to come up with some usual responses. Let me hear a few from here. I want A,B,C,D,E for I. Who is this I? I want to study, I want money, I want to get married, I want to be happy. All important statements, wishes, desires in this world start and end at I. And to fulfill them you need to know who is I? To understand the demands and desires of this I better.
“Interesting, so how exactly do you find yourself”? I asked.
I expected some vague tell-tale and spiritual Gyan. I got, instead 8 steps.
- Create your life timeline – Write down all of the major events in your life that you feel have affected you and have made you who you are. Try to re-experience these events from a different perspective and take the lessons that you need from it. Don’t dwell on negative experiences but realize that if it had not been for those past experiences you would not be where or who you are today.
- Start with a clean slate – Develop your own moral conduct and practice sticking to it. Remove vice from your life. Smoking, over-eating, and over-drinking will prevent you from functioning at your peak. This may take some major rehabilitation for some individuals. Remember, you can’t drive your life forward if you are always gazing through your rear-view mirror!
- Forget what everyone else thinks – You cannot please everyone. While you might not want to disappoint the people close to you, they should want you to be happy. As long as you continue to exist to fulfill other people’s ideas of who you should be, you’ll never know your true talents. “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” – Raymond Hull
- Find solitude – Get away from the expectations, the conversations, the noise, the media, and the pressure. Take some time each day to go for a long walk and think. Plant yourself on a park bench and look. Take a long, thoughtful road trip. Whatever you do, move away from anything that distracts you from contemplating your life and where you want it to go. In solitude, you should feel independent and self-sufficient, not lonely, needy or afraid.
- Ask questions – the difficult ones – If I had all the resources in the world – if I didn’t need to make money – what would I be doing with my day-to-day life and why? What do I want to look back on in my life and say that I never regretted? If you had to choose three words to describe the kind of person you’d love to be, what would those words be?
- Write down your answers – Beyond your time alone, it’s easy for these thoughts to slip to the back of your mind and be forgotten. If you have them written down, then every time you reflect, you can review your notes and take it a step further, instead of answering the same questions all over again.
- Act on what you have just find out – . Do the things that you want to do! Pick up those water-colors. Write a short story. Plan a trip to Mombasa, Mt Kenya, a walk at Nairobi Safari Walk. Have dinner with a family member. Start cracking jokes. Open up. Tell the truth. Whatever it is that you’ve decided you want to be or do, start being and doing it now.
- Be ready for dead ends -Finding yourself is a journey, not a destination. A lot of it is trial and error. That’s the price you pay in return for the satisfaction you receive: More often than not, you hit a bump in the road, and sometimes you fall flat on your face. Be prepared to understand and accept that this is a part of the process, and commit to getting right back up and starting over. It’s not going to be easy – it never has been for anybody – but if you learn to see that as a chance to prove how much you want to find yourself, then you’ll find fulfillment and security in your pursuit. When you are yourself, everyone will respect you more and treat you kindly. Best of all, you will always feel good about yourself. “If you want to study yourself — look into the hearts of other people. If you want to study other people — look into your own heart.”
Whoa, this was intense. For a 19-year-old, hours after cramming hydraulics formulae, it really was. I did chart out my answers. I realized I had been judging myself wrongly as an introvert, a reticent person. I started speaking out. I graduated from college, started working, living independently, finding I, day by day through different things, people, scenarios and places. I joined toastmasters and my journey expedited because it gave me a chance to reflect on the same lines while I penned down my ice breaker.
To be true to my work, my hopes, myself
To bring a smile on my parents’ face;
To live as if every moment counts,
And still not be a part of mad rat race;
To look up to the good and great and hope,
To contribute my part in all the ways;
To strive hard for what I want,
Is all that I wish for, is all that I chase.
I found part of my world and wishes, duties and desires when I wrote these few lines and here I am today, sharing this story with you in hope that you start or continue your journey of finding yourself!!
P.S. The steps to “find yourself “were collated from internet research in addition to the gyan by the old man.