Who Am I?

It’s 2018, and one of the biggest struggles for any individual, no matter the upbringing, is the struggle of identity. We are all just trying to figure out, who we are, how we are, and why we are. 

Since arriving in Ottawa just over two weeks ago, I’ve personally been heavily confronted by this idea of identity, and I didn’t expect it at all. Figuring out “who I am” has been a bit of a journey for me and the purpose of this blog isn’t to share my life story with you all, but for the sake of context I feel like you should know that. I would say it’s only been in the last 3-4 years that I have become confident in knowing the answer to that question, and it took walking through some pretty difficult seasons to really figure that all out. But upon arriving into this brand new city, on the complete other side of the world, I really didn’t expect this to be something I would have to consider.

But when you’re as introverted as I am, and enjoy being alone as much as I do, arriving in a new city actually just means that you’re now surrounded by literally millions of humans you’ve never met before. Which can be both incredibly uncomfortable and intimidating. But the hardest part in all of this is that you didn’t just leave all of your friends and family back in NZ, but now you’re in a position where if you want new friends and family, you’re going to have to at least say hello to a few people. And for someone like me, that is much harder than it sounds.

There are a few questions that you ask when you meet someone for the first time right? Questions like: “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?”, “What have you been up to?”, and the more you talk to someone, the more detailed the picture of them you're painting in your mind becomes, because essentially all you are really trying to establish is: “WHO ARE YOU?”

When you arrive in a new city, without a house, without a car, without a job, and without much of an idea, that’s a pretty big question to answer. Both hard to answer in a conversation with someone else, and hard to answer in a conversation with yourself. Because naturally these are the things that we not only judge other people on, but how we judge ourselves. 

The other day someone I know, was having a conversation with someone I didn’t and I decided to wander over and say hey. The person that I know, introduced by saying: “This is Sam, he’s a photographer,” and I found that quite interesting. Mainly because my name was attached to a trade… and by letting this person know that I was a photographer, it already gave a bit of an idea of who I was to this person that I didn’t yet know. I left that conversation and went home and started to think about that statement, and as I thought about it, I thought back to one of my favourite movie scenes of all time in a film called 'Chasing Mavericks' where a 15 year old is about to surf one of the biggest recorded waves of all time and a father figure in his life says to him, “It doesn’t matter if you ride this wave or not, I love you anyway.” And it occurred to me very quickly, like it had a few years ago, that what we do, more often then not has very little to do with who we are. 

I am a photographer. I love photography. I love a lot of things. I love surfing, hiking, camping and snowboarding… But those things, whilst they show you what I am passionate about, don’t define me. And they can’t define me. I can’t let them, and here’s why. Because tomorrow I could wake up, walk outside, slip, fall down the stairs and never be able to walk again. It would make a lot of the things that I really enjoy doing very difficult, and there’s even a chance I may never do them again. If my identity, if who I consider myself to be is defined by these things, and then all of a sudden I can’t do any of them. Then all of a sudden, I just became nothing. If in the process, I also just dropped my camera and for some reason didn’t have insurance coverage and spent the next year saving a few thousand dollars to re-purchase my camera, then all of a sudden, I just used to be a photographer.

What does define me though, is who God says that I am. And the characteristics God has embedded into me. These are not only the things that define me, they are the things I actually want people to know about me, and the rest is kinda just there. I would rather someone meet me and leave remembering how kind I was, than the fact that I enjoy hiking. I would rather someone remember that I was full of joy, than that I took photos for a living. I would rather people remembered me for who I was, than what I do, or have done. 

I felt like God say to me very clearly this week, and said that all of “that” doesn’t matter. But that my identity is found purely in the person God created me to be, and all of those characteristics that God has, whether the personality traits of Jesus or the fruits of the Holy Spirit, are what I was designed to possess. Therefore, my life could fall apart, I could never do the things that I enjoy doing again, I could never get my dream job, drive my dream car, etc, but all those things wouldn’t matter because they play no part whatsoever in who I am. 

1 John 3 : 1.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Sam Smith