According to Clifton’s StrengthsFinder, I would be labeled as someone who collects. For some that means collecting artifacts or business cards, but for me it means I collect stories. I collect information and experiences and always crave to know more.
Clifton would also tell me that I collect friends. The official term here is WOO – winning others over. I collect anything related to people which most naturally translates to an obsession with reading and investing in relationships.
Both of these strengths have the potential to be used in wildly powerful and successful ways, and I know that I’ve seen some of these synergies played out in my life. But recently I’ve started to see the other side of those strengths.
Because I value other people and relationships so heavily, I find that it is easier to define myself based on them rather than me. And that sounds silly, and I admit that it is. But for so long, I’ve read story after story of people’s lives, and have found ways to convince myself that I need to be doing what they’re doing. I need to be learning what they’re learning, seeing what they’re seeing, and growing how they’re growing. The beauty of books is that you feel like you do go through the process with the characters. But if you aren’t careful (and I am not), then you start to mistake their growth and deeper understandings as your own.
I’m grateful for the day Marcy told me, “You know, Mary, you keep bringing in books and stories of people’s lives that you are trying to find yourself in. But they aren’t you. And you have your own journey and story and process and dreams that only you can find.”
Kisses from Katie was the last book I read with that mindset.
So my reading has changed a little bit, and the two most recent books I read were almost maddening because there was no room for anyone but me in the stories. The Alchemist is about discovering your ‘Personal Legend’ and Letters to a YoungPoet is about finding solitude in yourself, and learning to create and be out of the depths of you. Never have I read a book that gave me such great peace in myself than Letters to a Young Poet.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and to try to love the questions themselves like
locked rooms and like books that are written
in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers,
which cannot be given you because you would
not be able to live them. And the point is, to live
everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will
then gradually, without noticing it, live along
some distant day into the answer. - Rilke
So cheers to all of us embarking on the greatest journey of all: the process of discovering us, and re-defining us based on who we were created to be (not be like).