Family vacations are a time filled with remembering of yesteryear, and coming off of a week of one I’m filled to the gills with stories and “Remember Whens” from back when our Mom, Dad, Two Kids and a Dog all lived together under one roof. Much of our time was spent musing about those days. Reminiscing about the time she picked up lady bugs one by one with her tiny fingers and moved them out of the house. The time I turned orange because I ate too many sweet potatoes (yes, it happened, and is apparently somewhat common). There were the times we climbed on the rocks near the lake house and watched the sun set. We talked a lot on this vacation about the things we use to do here at Chautauqua, as most members of our family have been vacationing here for the last 20+ years, and there were plenty of memories to be shared about camp and the farmer’s market, rock climbing and bicycling, ice cream and, well, more ice cream. When we were all in the car together, someone mentioned another memory, one we all shared, of a game we used to play. The Guess Who I Am Game is something we used to play as a family, when we were all younger, mostly on car trips Back East to Binghamton or to Chautauqua. The premise is fairly simple – the person who is “it” picks something that they are, and the other members of the game are tasked with asking a series of questions designed to determine what the “it” player had decided they were. A Challenger. The Empire State Building. A Spiedy. In my sister’s case (always) a sea otter.
Aside from my sister’s turns where I would be reprimanded for not pretending to be surprised when she gleefully revealed again that she was – who would have guessed? – a sea otter, it could be a pretty challenging game due largely to its great scope. Players could choose to be absolutely anything from a chinchilla to a chocolate chip cookie to the Trojan Horse, and somehow the other players had to ask the right questions to narrow down between these wide range of possible subjects. The first question was to determine whether or not this thing was alive – thus sorting the chinchilla from the chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes this question was more complicated than it appeared – the case of the Trojan Horse for example, where the horse itself was not alive but it contained a great number of live beings. Answers like this would be hedged on, and further questions would be asked to continue this determination. Assuming the question of life was simple however, we would then move on to the basic character of the thing – an animal, a person, a plant, a building, a food, etc. The basic characteristics would then lead to questions of proximity and what of our surrounding characteristics would reveal more about who or what we were. Are you something in this car? Are you a character from a story? Did we see you at our trip to Sea World this morning? Once you’ve discovered those things, your answers combined with a little knowledge about the person who chose the thing (sister like sea otters, mom likes historical and literary characters favoring Jane Austen, and Dad prefers either the very whimsical and imaginative things or the very plain objects within physical proximity)you were very close to victory. A few quick questions narrowing down who you were from a list and the game was won. If you could call it winning, that is. That was one of the best things about that game, especially as a family, that there was no winner or loser. There was some satisfaction in picking a difficult thing, but not one so difficult that everyone gave up, and usually everyone just had a satisfied feel when anyone’s Who was guessed.
Here on the bus heading back to New York City, I still feel like I’m playing the Guess Who I Am Game. Not with my fellow passengers – they’re sleeping or reading or looking at Facebook on their Iphones – But not alone – with myself. I feel like a part of me has picked something – a person, an identity, a value system, a series of priorities, a collection of strengths and failings – and the rest of me is charged with guessing what it is.
Who am I? I’ve established that I’m alive, so that’s a good and lucky first step. I’ve also learned that, despite my messiah complex, I’m human. Driver’s license says 23 years old. The same license also says that I’m a Michigander living on Liberty Lane though. That brings up the question of proximity and associated surroundings. Tax documents list an address in Brooklyn. So am I am New Yorker? Maybe. I feel lacking without having countless incredible restaurants nearby and get restless without noise and movement. Definite “checks” in the New Yorker column. But I enjoy talking to people – strangers – and liked only opening my computer twice over the last week.
What’s more, lately I feel like I’m uncovering parts of myself I never knew were there, never believed were, or that I fought against hard. I am 5 feet tall – more often than not now as I don’t wear heels much anymore. I am and have always been female, but what this means changes as I grow and as my regional location changes. Then there are things that are different. I don’t care to plan as much as I used to. And yet, I don’t mind taking the reins where I never used to think I liked having control. I’m remembering that I know how to be coy, and I’m forgetting how to be completely single-minded. I’m realizing that being adorable may be as inescapable as being stubborn, and that hopefully these two can live together in balance inside of me.
The truth is, I don’t know who I am just yet. I’ve got a direction – I’m not a chocolate chip cookie or a sea otter – and I’m moving towards figuring it out, but in the mean time I’ve got a lot more questions to ask before I get there.
I always remember the Guess Who I Am Game being more fun with more people. Would you like to play to?