I was biking up a gravel hill in my lowest gear for twenty minutes when I thought of this. The road was chunky and rough, my bike was loaded with gear, and the rest of the group was ahead of me. I was joined by my pulse thwumping in my head. Just the right components for backcountry introspection.
In the past few years, I’ve really increased my dedication to self-growth. I’ve taken hard looks at myself, searching for flaws, remembering mistakes. I check in often — am I still doing that bad habit? Am I showing more of that good trait? It’s a lifelong, ponderous task where I act as the researcher, the subject, and the approval board for a secret study. On my bike, on that hill, with sweat dripping from my temple to the dusty rocks beneath me, I weighed self-growth against my identity.
Identity’s a shapeshifting mound in the dark. The thing that we know most closely without knowing it at all, and maybe we’re hoping someone would send us a schematic, but that would be immediately out of date so… I can’t transcribe my identity here, but in grade twelve I had a sense of it. I would say that my three best qualities were that I was: lazy, cheap, and stubborn. I was a competitive swimmer training nine times a week but I wasn’t great at helping with the dishes and I didn’t want to work — that’s where lazy came from. And I was lazy. I didn’t spend money on almost anything, so in that sense, I was cheap — so in all senses, I was cheap. And I was resistant to change; if I’d made my mind up on something, I wouldn’t compromise; I had my rules and I stuck to them — I was stubborn. On my bike on that hill, I thought of my three best qualities again. I still identify with lazy, cheap, and stubborn. And I like it. Self-growth is hard if you like how you are, that’s my thesis here.
My laziness, my cheapness, and my stubbornness have all served me in some way. My laziness, linked with my fondness for treats, my propensity for long showers, my epic napping ability, my history of substituting a litre of water for the odd meal, and my impressive movie-watching record, have all served me. Mostly in laughter from the people who know me best. That laughter is greater than gold. I will never stop eating a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in a day so long as my best friend Sam continues to chuckle when I tell him about it. And cheapness has given me stories. And money. I once didn’t buy groceries for an entire university semester. Yeah, of course I leeched off of my parents whenever I went home, but I also saved. I did with less, held onto my funds. I thought it was funny, I wanted to say it — look I’m typing it here, and I’m glad I did it. As for my stubbornness — it has guided my actions more than any pros and cons list, more than any piece of advice I’ve ever received. When I decide something, really sit with it and make up my mind, I am capable of adhering to that belief no matter the storm that comes. I don’t know a lot of people that can do that. My stubbornness completed my engineering degree for me. It led to my few swimming career successes. It’s maintained nearly all of my friendships. I owe my stubbornness, my cheapness, and my laziness so much. I owe them me. How do I grow from that?
I was a confident boy, I’ve been a confident man; we were taught self love — even the faults — and for me, it took. There are two men in the battle of identity versus growth: there’s the man that I like and the man that I don’t know. I like who I am, all the backwards ways of thinking, all the flaws and oddities. The man ahead of me is a little bit stronger, a little bit better — but is he odd, does he fake smoke cigarettes — like air-guitar but air-cigarettes? (I do that.) I coined the phase that marked my three best qualities over six years ago and I’ve grown a lot since then, with the most growth in the last 24 months. I suppose I still like myself as much as I used to, so I shouldn’t find the growth so ominous. I think I only worry over it because the lion’s share has yet to occur. I demand more from myself but I don’t want to lose my pillars in the process: how much change until I’m not the same?
I want to be the same ol’ Benny because I love him, and I want to be the better version of him because I know he’s capable of it. And even more than how I love the same guy is how I think others love him. As I grow, do I lose their love? As I grow, will it be into someone boring? Much of our identity has it’s meaty limbs entrenched in who we are with. That’s why I don’t want to lose my old ways, because I want all my same friends to recognize me. People who crave change use the same fact in the opposite way: they get out of their home town or throw out one group of friends for a new one. The cities or friend groups were snakeskins to be moulted. What does a man do when he wants to keep his friends and his cities, but believes the best version of himself has yet to be realized?
As for lazy, cheap, and stubborn, I’ve decided on some rebranding. I am now a willful minimalist who has an affinity for the simple pleasures in life. The reason identity’s been heavy on my mind is because I feel I’m overdue for an overhaul. A quarter-life college graduate enduring a world-shattering pandemic — who could be in more need of finding themselves? And I am a believer that betterment comes sooner and with more potency to those that consider how to achieve it. I’ve always valued individuals who give significance to personal reflection.
Sorry for all the question marks; this piece would have been a lot longer in all the wrong ways if I had turned them into periods.
ASK YOURSELF HARD QUESTIONS,
B.F. Greeno, aka
“I am a slacker.”