Saturday, May 20, 2006

Who do you want to be?

As a rule, I don’t read fashion mags. The reason is simple – after a few pages I am reminded of my larger than acceptable thighs, small breasts, bad skin, outdated clothes; and a deep craving – no, lust – for only five or six beauty products, a hair cut and colour, and a few new outfits wells up in my heart leading to a state of mild depression for at least 48 hours. Despite this general rule of self-preservation, I picked up a few that were lying around work recently. The effect was, as expected, an addictive personal dissatisfaction as the simple lies were whispered up from every page. “This can be you. With a bit of work. It’s worth the cash, after all look at the results. This can be you!”

But, do I want “this” to be me?
Do I want to be defined as “the girl with the good clothes?”
The one with the great hair?
The smart chick?
The sexy one?
The one with the great clothes, great hair, great body, and smart?”
“The woman of style and culture?”

Who do I want to be?

Moving overseas to a city that belongs to neither of us opens up the opportunity to start over. We are not tied to family and friends in a certain area. We know the neighbourhoods only through hearsay and glances. We are free to choose where we live and, in choosing, we assent to being defined by the lifestyle and attitudes of that place.

Do we choose to live in the stylish area with shops close by so our environmental footprint is smaller, good coffee, parks and beautiful spots of creation to enjoy and be in, surrounded by other people who are interested in books and God, who dress well and have good jobs and express concern for the environment and poverty? While sitting in a nice café. Over good coffee.

Do we choose to live in the transitional area with the homeless, the petty dealers, no safe parks to enjoy and few to be in, with a community of other students who are concerned for the homeless and the petty dealers, who have little and minister to “the least of these?” But walk home warily at night. Petty dealers aren’t afraid to mug and pick-pocket.

Do we make the choice to allow our convictions to shape our personalities and interests, the people we walk with, the conversations we have, and the work that we do. Or do we live our dream of . . . of convenience, of style, of safety? After all, living closer to college (in the stylish area) means a shorter (and safer) commute, which will give us more time for the friends we make (who, due to where we live and the way we spend our time as a result, will be more like us and easier to be friends with).

We know only a few people. We are not tied to certain personalities, but have the chance to re-create those aspects of ourselves that are boxed in, for whatever reason. No one remembers the silly or wise things we have done. We have no history. We have the chance to choose our direction. We’ve started down a path with Regent but that is only the beginning. There are many types of people at Regent and many paths to take. Don’t you see – this is the thing, the struggle that we all face in every decision from the biggest (job, housing, partner) to the smallest (clothes, food, time).

Who do we want to be?

Who do you want to be?

The choices you make shape who you are. The direction you take determines the way people see you and how you see yourself. You can only stay different from your choices for so long – given a few weeks or months, you look like everyone else who going in your direction; you become what you have chosen.

So, how do you choose? Conviction? Comfort? Style? Sacrifice?

Who do you want to be?

We only have a limited amount of money, a limited amount of time to spend each day. We only have a limited amount to spend on earth. And, as we see so often in Jesus’ teachings, how we spend ourselves dictates who we are. Each choice in one direction is a choice opposed to another direction. The time spent catching up with friends is time not spent teaching English to an immigrant. Time spent with your mates is time not spent with a lonely elderly man.

I know, it is important to enjoy life – spend time with friends – enjoy God’s gifts. It is truly important to do these things. But too often we choose enjoyment out of habit and inertia and fail to actually find joy (happiness and contentment are much easier) in the gifts of God we say we are enjoying.

Who do you want to be?

Audrey Hepburn, while a humanitarian later in life, is immortalised by popular culture for high cheekbones, big sunnies, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s. She is an icon of glamour, style, and beauty. Mother Theresa needed a few more facials in her lifetime but she is immortalised by popular culture for charity, generosity, and the Sisters of Mercy. She is an icon of grace, love, and Christ.

Choose your icon. Choose your destiny. Choose who you want to be.