We all have multiple personalities. I can be as sweet as a gummy bear or as bitter as a cocoa bean, depending on who I’m with, where I am or how I’m feeling at a particular moment in time. Our changing selves have nothing to do with who we are because who we are incessantly varies to adapt to our environment.
In linguistics, a speech community serves as a model for understanding differences among language users. In other words, the idea of a speech community rests on the assumption that people are influenced by their surroundings and that they develop or use language as a way to meet their needs in a particular community. For instance, if you want a cheesesteak in Philadelphia you need to know the proper way to order one: Do you want cheese? You’ve got three options: American, Provolone or Whiz. Do you want onions? Two options: “wit” or “widdout.” We all know what you’re here for so your order is simple: Type of Cheese + Wit or Widdout. Every Philadelphian knows this; it’s what makes us Philadelphians.
This makes sense, right? Now, let’s think about it on a personal level. How do you act and what kinds of things do you say when you’re around your friends? Do you speak the same way in front of your grandparents as you do with your friends? I, for one, would never begin a sentence with Omg, I was so drunk last night while speaking to any of my family members. If you are someone who speaks freely no matter whom you are with be it your mom, dad, boss, Great Aunt Betty or best friends Larry, Curly and Moe, then good for you. Maybe you truly know yourself or maybe you just have no concept of couth.
For the rest of us, we are constantly and acutely aware of the situation we are in – tormentingly so. When I spend time with my college friends, I feel uneasily at home dressed in couture caught up-to-New York City-speed in the know about every event or newest best restaurant in the best city in the world! OMG I can’t believe you moved back to Philly when you could be here [going broke living in a shoebox] with us!!
I’d like to think that that fancy version of myself is not who I am, but the truth is, it is. It’s as much a part of me as the me who wears yoga pants to the bar or the me who could frankly care less about what is going on in the world today. Just because I can’t pinpoint my true self doesn’t mean I’m not genuine because I am genuinely living in every moment, behaving in a style that is unique to me but simultaneously fits the situation at hand.
I’m probably the closest to who I am when I’m alone, but even then, who I am is never the same. There are days when I’m a master de-clutterer and days when I am utterly useless. The only consistency in my quest lies in the endless stream of thoughts that move with me. I wonder all the time – in the shower, on the couch watching TV, in bed before I fall asleep – about what kind of person I am, where I’ll be in 5 years, who I want to be, how I’m living my life. The thing is, I don’t have all of the answers and even when I happen to have some of the answers, they change like a hurricane that veers off its predicted path. Some would say that’s living without direction, but I say that’s living life to its fullest. It’s enough for me to do one thing every day that pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone in an effort to become the best version of me possible.
Who I am changes because I challenge myself, learn from my mistakes, and refuse to settle at complacency.