I often think about, struggle really, with who I am. Not so much in an esoteric, inner turmoil way, but more in a "what makes me tick" kind of way. There is no question that we are influenced by many aspects in life from situations to friends, and that often we change along with the situations we face and people we meet. But really, I think we just adapt to our surroundings and evolve based upon who we choose to spend our time.
So here is a prime example, I grew up very outdoorsy. Because as a 6 year old, I had a burning desire to hike up mountain trails, go pheasant hunting, shoot clay pigeons and go fly fishing? No. Of course not. I did those things because my dad wanted to do those things. I learned about conservation and the environment, gained a deep appreciation for nature and wildlife, understood the arguments regarding the second amendment, and despite my dad's exciting description of the activity, I learned that turkey hunting is not like "big game hunting" - like at all (nice try dad.)
But then, I went away to college in an urban area. The most outdoor experience I probably had was walking to the corner convenience store for cigarettes (when they were $2.00 a pack and smoking was cool - wait it wasn't?) or the annual Delta Gamma "hayride," which was essentially a field party fueled by hormones and bottles of Boone's Farm.
Moving back to my home county in New Jersey in 2006, 12 years after I initially left for college, I assumed I would get back to my roots and former activities. Do some hiking, maybe obtain my bow hunting license - the stuff I would talk about on the phone with my dad. But I didn't. At this point, at 30, I had new friends, a new career, new boyfriend, new apartment and we just didn't fish or hunt or shoot anything. No one really went outside anymore. My dad wasn't well and trying to get him organized enough for an outdoor activity was a cumbersome and daunting challenge that I could not make a regular habit.
So, I adapted. I sipped wine instead of beer, I went to fancy dinners, had wonderful opportunities to travel. I pursued other interests like music and dance. I drove in Audis instead of pick up trucks. I began to enjoy a more sophisticated and mature life as an adult. Camping by the riverside in NY state became stays at the Hyatt Regency. And that was all okay. Really. (I certainly prefer a nice hotel bathroom over squatting in the woods.)
And then I am driving down my road the other day, and I see a giant tom turkey. He's all puffed up and showing off in the middle of my road. I am instantly flooded with the memories of 4 am wake ups in April, of sitting on freezing cold ground in the woods, calling turkeys with my dad. I remember him reminding me that "the turkeys can hear you, you really need to shut up. Lauren, shut up." (So sweet and kind, my dad).
Once it was time to call it a day, I recall my dad recounting all of the things I could do differently next time to draw the turkeys we heard in the distance closer to us (I didn't hear anything, because I was probably talking). And hearing my dad's romanticized stories of his childhood growing up in the "deep woods" of Parsippany, New Jersey. I can smell the crisp spring air - I can feel the sun, now risen, warming my face as we trudge through the woods to our car. I remember knowing that not every 16 year old girl or (boy for that matter) was turkey hunting this morning, and that I was having a unique experience with my dad.
Looking at that scene with nearly 40 year old eyes and perspective, I worry that I've adapted a little too well to the sophisticated, indoor life and maybe I've lost part of who I am. The last time I sat around with my dad, waiting for a turkey to show up in the woods was probably 15 years ago.
I'm grateful for the experiences in my life and I know I am lucky to have been exposed to so many unique ones from an early age, whether it was farming or the arts, sports or the outdoors. All of those experiences do make up who am I now. I know a little about a lot of things - as my dad would say, "you "don't realize how competent you are" (and then proceeds to take credit for all of the successes I have earned in my life).
Perhaps I feel a tad guilty that I have lost touch with those aspects of my early life, but the good news is, between my sister's kids and my own, I have a new generation to whom I can introduce the fine art of the "J-stroke" in a canoe. I guess I know who I am, after all. I'm a lot of things.