In Samuel Beckett’s iconic play, “Waiting for Godot” three comedic characters eternally, but expectedly, await the arrival of someone, or something, referred to as “Godot.”
In our lifelong search for personal identity, we too, with varying degrees of patience, await some personal illumination that will definitively resolve the determination as to who we really are.
At some stage in the natural progression of our individual maturity, a conglomerate consisting of our aspirations (perhaps, edited by experience) regular interaction with others, and the communal perception of our persona, results in a personal comprehension of self. It appears to be a gradual and cumulative process, which continues until the stage of our acceptance of personal identity and the discovery of our role in the theater of our life.
Starting with early childhood, we feel compelled to perform experimental acts of reality testing; at first, with parents, later, with friends and others with whom we interact; these interactions ultimately help provide confirmation of our accepted determination of self-identity.
Our identified “self” will flexibly and appropriately moderate in its necessary adaptation to the various roles we are obliged to play during our life experience, ex., as spouse, parent, friend, advisor, neighbor.
We have previously written on the dynamic ingredient of interaction with others as vitally important to our understanding of ourselves; elsewhere, on the definition of success as an exclusively internal assessment, based upon perceived self-esteem and self-fulfillment, and not upon any comparative scoreboard of asset accumulation. We also have recommended the periodic practice of self- accounting, the personalized internal auditing of our prior acts and moral judgments, hopefully, consistent with our avowed self- image.
Our society appears to have the desire, for some reason, to identify and categorize people, based upon their work, viz., Sol the doctor, Victor the accountant, Mike the butcher, Lenny the lawyer, Sara the decorator. Moreover, on the personal level, a great many people so self- identify with their regular work role as to make the life change of retirement, when it arrives, a time of difficult personal adjustment.
On a somewhat related, but disturbing subject, many unthinking and reductive people attribute personality traits and character, stereotypically, to people they have never met, solely by thei trade or profession. Such lazy attribution is reprehensible; Smith the lawyer is still Smith with of all his individual characteristics, working as a lawyer.
As an aside, but on a related topic, it should be emphasized that when the founders of our republic declared that “all men are created equal…” they were exclusively expounding a purely legal declaration that the class system of inherited privilege which existed in Europe for centuries shall have no application here. The founders certainly did not intend to declare that all men are equal in capability, rather, only equal at birth.
Aside from our declared equality at birth and our inalienable entitlement to the pursuit of happiness, the distribution of talent and capacities vary from one capable citizen to the other. The magic word is aptitude, defined as an innate inclination or capability to easily perform well or engage in a specific enterprise with a minimum amount of effort. Many people may fail in a designated course of study or endeavor, not due to lack of talent, but by their persistence in the continuance of an enterprise which is outside of their inherited proclivities.
Since self-esteem and self- fulfillment depend in great part on capable performance, we ought to, in cases of less than desired outcome, as possible, exercise the flexibility to seek other enterprises that do fit our innate capabilities. We often are cognizant of the problem, but may, understandably, be reluctant to risk change for economic or personal reasons. The choice is, in fact, risky and involves the sacrifice of the more comfortable but unsuccessful “ known” for the opportunity to discover great success from the selected exercise of our valuable, innate gifts.
In order to cash in on our personalized inborn capabilities we may, at some time in our life, be constrained to face our misgivings and not “ wait for Godot”; Beckett, himself, if pressed ,would have sardonically told you that there is no Godot.