did, do, am

This is me:


What I like about this photo is not just the view of me from the outside, the background, vista, and foreshadowing of building clouds above my 12,000 foot perch. It’s not just the fact that I have that grin on my face. It’s that I know this picture from the inside. There is bliss in this picture, in me. While on that pass I imagined that the memory of that instant would have permanence, yet I don’t really know that for sure. It’s nice to have the image, from the outside in, to recall the feeling from the inside out.

Last week I was working on my c.v. — I’m up for an award, it turns out — and in the process of updating such a thing you start to think about who you are, because you are forced to think about, in minute and excruciating detail, what you’ve done. In A.P.A style, you define yourself as a set of lines each stating your name, a year in parentheses, a paper title and a few other details for retrieval or verification. These, and things like them under their respective headers, are some of the things I’ve done.

I didn’t list the scaling of Forester Pass, fording a stream, crossing a snow field, or anything of the sort. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. A large part of me is fine with keeping such important accomplishments separate from a presentation at the 2008 Annual Meeting of Those Who Choose Not to Go Outdoors. And, it gets fuzzy when one starts to mix the “what I did” with “what I do.” The former you can list as bullets. The latter is much harder to describe, but it’s more important, and that’s what makes updating your vita such an unsatisfying task.

The hardest is “Who I Am.” I think to really know that, you need to take a picture of me while I’m doing the best of what I do. If it shows me from within, somehow, so much the better. The principal of the elementary school I was at took one when I was levitating a beach ball with a leaf blower; Karyn took one of me staring back at her; and that one was taken of me on Kearsarge Pass. I remember the taking of each of these photos and being pleased with the image before I knew how it would really turn out, because I knew what it looked like from the inside. More than a picture of what I did or where I was, I knew it was a picture of who I am. I guess that’s what we can all hope for in our quests for self-fulfillment: the opportunity to be who we really are. If someone gets a snapshot of it, so much the better.

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