Just When I Thought I Knew My­self

The Con­tin­ued De­vel­op­ment of Your Per­son­al­ity

PS Magazine - - NEWS - By ENUMA OKORO

Ihad an un­usual child­hood in that I spent a lot of it mov­ing from one new coun­try to the next. I moved coun­tries when I was 2, 7, 10, 13 and 17 years old. So my mem­o­ries are splashed with win­ter play dates with friends in Amer­ica, rainy sea­son af­ter­noons spent in Nige­ria, Satur­day shop­ping at the open mar­ket in Cote D’Ivoire, and reg­u­lar 4PM tea times with scones and jam dur­ing the years I lived in Eng­land. It was never easy mov­ing from one new place to the next. I was al­ways hav­ing to rein­tro­duce my­self to new peo­ple, learn­ing new ways of liv­ing in an­other cul­ture, and un­der­stand­ing new so­cial norms and prac­tices.

When I got much older and was able to re­flect on my unique up­bring­ing, I re­al­ized that I had picked up an in­valu­able skill: the abil­ity to stay open to learn­ing new things about my­self when­ever I in­ter­acted with new peo­ple and in new en­vi­ron­ments. Be­cause I was ex­posed to so much di­ver­sity of peo­ple and cul­ture so early on in my life, I quickly un­der­stood that dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences and en­coun­ters could teach me about new sides

of my­self. In or­der to fit into my new en­vi­ron­ments, I had to re­main open to try­ing new things that took me out of my com­fort zone, things I wasn’t al­ways sure I was ca­pa­ble of. In Cote D’Ivoire, I learned I could pick up a new lan­guage if I com­mit­ted my­self to try­ing to un­der­stand when Ivo­rians spoke to me in French. In Eng­land, I rode horses for the first time and learned to con­quer some age- old fears I had. This helped me stay open to ad­dress­ing other fears that crept up as I grew from an awk­ward teenager into a some­what ad­justed young adult.

What’s most sig­nif­i­cant about these ob­ser­va­tions is that I be­lieve my in­ter­nal will­ing­ness to stay open, to ex­plore new ex­pe­ri­ences, and to push my­self beyond my com­fort zones had more to do with the de­vel­op­ment of my per­son­al­ity than the par­tic­u­lars of hav­ing grown up in var­i­ous coun­tries. Some­one who has lived in the same house on the same neigh­bor­hood for their en­tire life could also dis­cover new things about their per­son­al­ity if they stay open to en­gag­ing the world around them with cu­rios­ity and courage.

Be­cause the truth is our worlds are al­ways chang­ing in some way or an­other, even when we may not want them to. New peo­ple move into our neigh­bor­hoods and we have the op­por­tu­nity to en­counter an­other cul­ture or per­spec­tive that might open up or trig­ger some­thing new within our own ways of en­gag­ing the world. New tech­no­log­i­cal de­vices make old ones ob­so­lete and we have the op­por­tu­nity to learn new skills that re­mind us we are never too old to be stu­dents of life and the world. Un­ex­pected cir­cum­stances good and not so good arise in our per­sonal lives that chal­lenge us in how we think our­selves ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing.

“The re­al­ity is that no mat­ter how old we get, most of us can still dis­cover new things about our per­son­al­i­ties that sur­prise us, scare us, de­light us, and most im­por­tantly of all, re­mind us that we are still alive and grow­ing.”

All too of­ten, we reach a cer­tain age in our lives when we ex­pect our­selves to have things all fig­ured out, to have a clear and de­fined sense of self, to know what we want, what we like, and what we can and can’t do with our minds and our bod­ies. There is a cer­tain peace to reach­ing such a stage. But the re­al­ity is that no mat­ter how old we get, most of us can still dis­cover new things about our per­son­al­i­ties that sur­prise us, scare us, de­light us, and most im­por­tantly of all, re­mind us that we are still alive and grow­ing. That alone is a beau­ti­ful thing worth cel­e­brat­ing and prac­tic­ing. ■

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