Our identities are normally wrapped into what we do. Typically, it is the largest part of our lives. We may think of this as a mask or a persona, but our identity is the expression of ourselves to the outside world. At 23, I played my last competitive soccer game at Sonoma State University. For the previous 15 years, I played competitive soccer, allowing me to travel to places in Europe and South America, attempting to play professionally. My identity was as a soccer player. Who I was on the soccer field was the largest part of my personality.
September 11th, 2001, the vision of my future identity changed. On that morning, instead of continuing on my path to being a soccer coach and history teacher, I wanted to help my country in some capacity. Instead of teaching history, I wanted to be a part of history.
That change was dramatic, and I was not ready for either the highs or the lows I would encounter on that route. Spoiler alert! In the end, everything worked out for the best. For the next seven years, my life, career, and identity took a new shape. As I am about to reencounter this process, I wanted to write my younger self with three cautionary lessons. After reading, “Personality isn’t Permenant” by Benjamin Hardy I can relate to the central theme that we can define our future identity. By remembering the factors that led to a previous successful change of self-identity, I am currently planting the seeds for a future process. What follows is that letter to my 23-year-old self.
What’s up man,
I am writing to you to let you know that what you are about to undertake will test you beyond what you thought was possible. You have a pretty level head and the ability to see the end goal. It is foggy with just a theme of what you want to do without any actual knowledge of how that looks. I want to impart three pieces of advice. Stay the course, learn from failures, and it is darkest just before the dawn. These lessons have proven valuable to get us here and will likely prove more useful in my future endeavors.
Stay the Course
You are in search of a mythical land to the north that is just beyond the horizon. Like the movie water world, dry land is just beyond the horizon. On a couple of occasions, you will encounter obstacles. Know that they are the way. Some you will overcome, others you will go around. What is vital is that you continue on your course. As you get closer, you will gain further clarity on how to achieve them ultimately.
Right now, you have little to no idea about the process, how to speak the language, core skills, or requirements that will be needed. That is fine. Learn to ask for help. Find the wisdom of mentors and ask questions. The answers will allow you to course-correct on your navigation. When people get to a higher level, they naturally want to assist people who demonstrate their interest and desire to learn.
Learn from your failures
Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the path to learning, and if it is not life-threatening, those lessons will prove priceless later. You have been tested in your past, but you will be tested beyond what you currently think is possible. Your body and mind are linked if given a definite purpose or definite why your body will learn to perform incredibly.
These failures will continue to shape and guide you on your journey. Share these lessons with others and allow them to exist without judgment. There will be countless nights that “failures” will take you to a dark spot. But, remember that night is darkest just before the dawn.
The night is darkest just before the dawn
You will learn this, both, metaphorically and literally. Right now, you are fairly headstrong; you have driven through the challenges up to this point in your life. Through your previous experiences, you have learned to use those events to fuel you through difficult times.
These skills will continue to be vital to you at many points in your coming adventure. There will be points that you question whether you are doing the right thing. During these times, focus on your buddy and make sure that they are okay. Focusing on others’ welfare allows you to forget about your pain until you can regain your strength. It is those times that you need to stay the course and know that better times will come.
The past does not define identity. You can create your future identity
Who is it that you want to be? Remember that and use it in difficult times. Why are you doing all this? With a strong enough “why” you will find the solution through all the chaos. Your identity is no longer “Danny, the soccer player.” You are Danny Dopler, and your future identity is yours to define.
Cheers from your future self,
P.S. If you have had a defining moment in your life or you have changed your persona to the core, share in the comments. These can be both empowering and crippling in the same moment. They can also be the catalyst for future change.
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