Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

                          Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

My friend Kym and I seem to be creating quite a little echo chamber of sentiment this week.  She incorporated my recent post on the Tragically Hip into her thinking about her life and where it would and should take her.  She  is in the process of thinking more about who she is and who she wants to be, and this, I think, is when you really know you're going to be okay: when you're able to look at the good and bad of your life and face it all with an understanding of who your past makes you and just how much freedom you have to choose who you will be.  I loved how Kym understood my babbling about nostalgia, and the way she was able to use it as a lens through which to consider herself.  It can be hard to figure out how to balance a longing for former glories with the need to direct your life forward.

Kym's considerations of her life and future reminded me of something my Mom did for me.  When I was young, I was really freaked out by going to the bathroom at my elementary school, and this meant that I would often come home having walked a mile while desperately having to go to the bathroom.  Mom had a talk with me about listening to my body (presumably while thinking "this is just great, my child is going to make her bladder actually explode. Why did I have children, again?"), and the next day I opened my lunchbox and found a note that read "This above all: to thine own self be true" and this:
That's a little cat from a Red Rose Tea box.  Red Rose has been including these little things - called whimsies, adorably - in their tea for decades, and we used to have a lot of them.  I've kept this little cat since then, and it's probably the possession I've held onto the longest; I've had it since I was 6 or 7.  It reminds me of several things, first, of course, being of how amazingly lucky I am to have a mom who not only thought it was appropriate to counsel her elementary school daughter via Hamlet, but also knew she was correct to do so, since my reading level was such that I could figure out that older diction and not get thrown by "thine."  It also reminds me that listening to myself is what will keep me on the right path, and that it takes continual reflection.

I bring this little cat with me whenever I'm feeling nervous or trying something new.  It was with me at my high school and college graduations, with me at American University and Assumption College.  It was with me at orientation when I started my Ph.D at Boston University.  It was with me when I debated the Cambridge Union Society and when I sang the National Anthem for the first time at the DCU Center.  It was with me when I went to Obama's Inauguration and when I was inducted into Phi Sigma Tau, the Philosophy honor society.  I was with me at my book release parties, at opera recitals, and next to my computer when I sent articles off to journals and conferences.  It will be with me at many other key intersections of my life, because it will never stop being the most useful reminder I have.

This above all: to thine own self be true.

1 comment:

  1. Meow.

    And again I ask, when can I present your mother with the adoption papers??