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what does definition mean?
how do you define you?
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)

It's really fun when you're sleeping with-slash-dating-slash-living with your best friend. You get to talk about all the things that mean a lot to you at two in the morning, and then you get to cuddle! But what's really great about that kind of bond is the fact that you can discuss things you'd really only ponder when you're drunk with your bestest girlfriend.

The other night the love of my life and I were lying in bed, forehead to forehead, breathing each others peppermint tooth-paste-y breath and having deep and meaningful conversation. Well, I was conversating, he was listening "as usual" to my nightly ramble. I was recalling some of the tougher questions I asked myself once upon a time. It's always due to having that one teacher who really wanted you to "find yourself", and because of that, I can bet we all have those probing thoughts from time to time.

The one I've never been able to complete was defining myself. The actual "practice" was to define yourself in 20 phrases. It doesn't start out so hard, and I always get confident that I'll complete it in no time at all.

1. I am a woman.
2. I am a daughter.
3. I am a girlfriend.

There! Three already! But I have to think "Well, is that it?" And of course it's not. Just over half of the world's population is a woman. And due to being such, they're also a daughter. So scratch that.

1. I am a woman.
2. I am a girlfriend.

I can work with that. But it can be better. This is me we're talking about, not that girl across the street. What makes me a girlfriend? What makes that relationship so special it defines me? Let's re-phrase that. What makes that relationship so special it at least narrows down who and what I am.

1. I am a woman.
2. I am in love with my best friend.

Better. What else? What makes me, me?

1. I am a woman.
2. I am in love with my best friend.
3. I write what I know.
4. I paint what I feel.
5. I am inspired by people I pass on the street.
6. I am disheartened by everyday laments.

It's harder now. I'm never certain where I'm going when I start my list of definitions. I'm sure someone feels the same way I do, and I try to be specific. But sometimes, I don't feel like I want to scratch too deep, you know? To be that invasive means I have to give up the parts of myself that I would rather keep deeply hidden away.

1. I am a woman.
2. I am in love with my best friend.
3. I write what I know - I write about how life can be a struggle even when you're young.
4. I paint what I feel - I have emotions I can't even put names to, so I put them on canvas.
5. I am inspired to understand the people I pass on the street.
6. I am disheartened by everyday laments, and by the fears and concerns of the world.
7. I internalize other people's problems, I tend to want to "save" everyone.
8. I am very naive about a lot of issues, and I prefer to stay that way.

It's getting better. I feel like I'm letting go of the things that are hard to say. It's difficult, to say the least, to be myself when I see subliminal "expectations" in most of my surroundings. It's consumerism, it's commercialism, it's capitalism - it's sado-masochism, really. Programming since birth is telling me how I should look, feel, taste, see, smell, be - and when I'm finished throwing myself again and again against the walls of "social perfection", what's left? Where am I? Who am I? Twelve more definitions can't be too bad, can it?

9. I have come to be far more satisfied with my body than many other women, of any age.
10. I have a guilt complex that is unfathomable.
11. I am ambiguous at best in my spiritual beliefs.
12. I rarely put my personal goals and wishes to the front. If I don't start, I can't fail.
13. I have more patience than I sometimes realize. It's tested often, with surprising results.
14. I have emotional days I'm afraid to try to understand, afraid I won't like the answers.

Fourteen definitions. Fourteen things that make me the person I am. Fourteen ways that I can be sorted out from the rest of humanity. Fourteen reasons not to go any further.

15. I see the good in people I meet. If I get hurt, at least I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
16. I hurt easily -- sensitivity of feeling is nothing new.
17. I am stubbornly strong-willed, my beliefs can't be changed, even with facts.
18. I love completely and without reservation.
19. I can't keep a job for very long, my boredom translates to laziness.
20. I find it easy to read and interpret other people. I have a much harder time understanding myself.

Honestly, this is one of the hardest and most revealing things I think I've ever written. It took me a few days of thought, and a few hours of consistent examination to make it make sense. I feel better for having done it, and I feel better for knowing that at least one person who reads it will do the same. Introspection is never easy, but in front of me I now have the following:

A list of twenty statements that I can - for better or worse - say define me.
I have a better understanding of what, perhaps, I can polish up and refine about myself. Maybe there is deeper understanding to be found if I think a little harder on some of these definitions.

Finally, I have a feeling of accomplishment. I've finally finished something started a long time ago, something that was twenty four years in the making. Something, at least, to be proud of - that I know myself this well.


Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

more about maigen thomas


i'm just apathetic, not an atheist
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topic: general
published: 7.9.08

pascal's wager
a geek chick takes on cynicism
by maigen thomas
topic: general
published: 9.27.10


tim lockwood
10.14.05 @ 12:46a

According to my favorite reference book, giving twenty answers to the question "Who am I?" was one of the psychological tests that NASA gave prospective astronauts in the early days of the space program.

A quote from John Glenn about that question: "The first few answers to that question were easy. I am a man, I am a Marine, I am a flier, I am a husband, I am an officer. When you got down to the end, it was not so easy to figure out just who you were."

Much as you discovered.

maigen thomas
10.14.05 @ 1:32a

thanks, tim! I knew I had come across that somewhere else, as well, and could never remember. But I'm glad I did it anyways - it's definitely eye opening.

tracey kelley
10.14.05 @ 10:52a

I'm almost scared to try this exercise.

dan gonzalez
10.14.05 @ 1:33p

Eh, it's easy:

I am a man.

I am, uh, hmph, let's see... A MANLY MAN! There.

I am...uh...gonna go do something else really important that just came up.

robert melos
10.15.05 @ 12:05a

Who you are and who you want to be are also two different people. I go with the theory, sometimes a cigar is just cigar.

dan gonzalez
10.15.05 @ 12:41a

Who you are and who you want to be are also two different people.

Gold! Burdened by imperfect yet ever-growing memories while afflicted by the anxiety of unknown tomorrows is the one condition that indiscriminately defines us all.

sandra thompson
10.15.05 @ 10:46a

I'm gonna try this exercise, but I'm not gonna make it public, at least not for a while. I'm brave, but not THAT brave. Besides, I've already told y'all more about me than I probably should have.

juli mccarthy
10.15.05 @ 10:57a

I'm not sure one can do this exercise in COMPLETE honesty. Bobby's got it right - who you really are might not be who you think you are, and putting the truth down in black and white can force you to face that.

I did it, and I'm not pleased with the real definition of me.

jeffrey walker
10.15.05 @ 7:57p

i got in an argument with myself again.

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