In Contrast

by Tara Agacayak on July 13, 2009

It is easy to live an “unexamined” life for it is done without thinking. Routine lulls us into complacency and we rarely stop to question what we are doing or why. We become so comfortable in our habits that it never occurs to us to consider what we are all about.

There is great value in taking a deep look at yourself; in questioning who you are and what motivates you. One way is to view yourself in contrast – to examine yourself in opposition to who you know yourself to be. To look at yourself against the grain. Marrying a foreigner and moving to another country provides an opportunity to look at yourself this way because everything you know and value are called into question while you learn to live on foreign ground.

Imagine one day packing up, leaving the place you’ve occupied for years, and moving half-way around the world. The next morning you awake to discover that your breakfast cereal has been replaced with bread, cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and tea. You find that the way you cross the street is different. How you answer the phone, how you drive, how you shop – it is all different, and quite disorienting.

You feel as if you are living under a microscope overexposed to scrutiny and judgment. Not to imply that the scrutiny and judgment are negative, but rather that it is odd to see yourself in so much detail. Local curiosity motivates questions that seem to go straight to the heart of who you are, forcing you to look at things you didn’t see before.

Examining yourself in contrast to what you are not permits you to question your values, habits, mannerisms, beliefs, education, knowledge, pleasures, taboos, superstitions, dress, diet, upbringing, heroes, villains, posture, humor and your very place in the world. It can be a dizzy and destabilizing experience, but the end result of all that questioning is that you start paying attention. What you are left with after all the questioning is a choice.

You have the choice to decide for yourself what you value and what you believe. Measured against the weight of your heart, you have the opportunity to see who you are apart from all the foreign and domestic influences – to see yourself from the inside. The dizziness lessens and you sense that you are on solid ground. And your feet are firmly planted. You know what fits and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t. When someone calls your name, you recognize your identity with more clarity.

The values that belong to you are yours because you have consciously decided to own them, not because they have been given to you without question. Apart from everything that influences you from the outside, you get to discover yourself at your very center. It is an amazing gift and a source of personal power that should not be underestimated.

In a world that seems destined for disaster, it is possible to find hope by figuring out where we fit in the puzzle. Knowing where we stand and what we stand on gives us the chance to take actions that lead to solutions. Knowing who we are outside of cultural and political influence allows us to see ourselves clearly. This is a powerful force in the world and paves the way to act with authenticity and conviction.

I don’t recommend you marry and move to a foreign country – it is not for everyone. But I do invite you to find a way to make yourself uncomfortable, to do something irregular, or to put yourself in a situation that feels strange and different. Don’t be too comfortable in life as comfort has the potential to be a barrier; something that holds us back. Little good it does to retain ourselves when the world has so much to benefit from our forward movement with thoughtful and measured steps.


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