Different · living · memories · Ourselves

Who We Were Or Who We Are?

Is who we were who we are today?

I ran across a scrap book I assembled several years ago showing my life ‘before’ today. I lived in a different town, had different friends, had a different career, looked different. But, am I different than I was?

I first asked this question two years ago when my sister and I cleaned out decades of ‘stuff’ from my stepmother’s closets, attic, drawers, and other crevices packed with mementoes that only she could recall their importance.

It has provided interesting insights to this woman who I knew for 50 years. She was 37 when I first met her, and her life before that time was unknown to me. It was not until I began to rummage through old scrapbooks buried under years of living that I learned more about her.

For instance, she toured with the USO during World War II as a singer. Newspaper articles described her voice as ‘intimate’ and ‘longing’ as she crooned the old time favorites that were popular to the service men and women of the day.

Following the war she sang in several musicals and operas in her hometown of Dallas, collecting autographed pictures of the musicians who starred in the shows.

I am unfamiliar with most of these actresses and actors, but the photographs seem to indicate they were ‘star’ quality, reflecting the glamour of the 1940’s.

By the time I met Jane, her voice had been altered by years of smoking, and her life had taken a different path away from the lights and sounds of acting. I do remember her telling me about how as a child she would go to the movies almost daily, soaking up the dramas played out on the big screen.

In fact, we can tell which major starlet she was enacting when she wanted to make a point. Perhaps it was Rita Hayworth, or Deborah Kerr, Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, or Veronica Lake. Many of these movie stars are long forgotten, but not in Jane’s mind. She learned their poses, their gestures, their roles, and she portrayed them until the day she died.

It is amazing what we don’t know about people who we think we know. We all have pasts that are literally left behind as we move from one phase of our lives to another. I recall a friend of mine who had been very active in the political scene in Washington D.C. before marrying a small town boy from the Panhandle of Texas. They returned to his hometown, and she lamented that her family and friends didn’t want to hear about her exciting days in the nation’s capital. They were interested in only who she was right then.

But we fail to understand that who we are today depends on who we were yesterday. The past does mold us into our present form.

I haven't a clue how this fits into this post, but I liked the quote, so I inserted it.
I haven’t a clue how this fits into this post, but I liked the quote, so I inserted it.

Who is still around to know what events, what loves, what losses created today’s version of ourselves? We each are a messy conglomerate of all those seconds and minutes of our past. No one person can know what actions and reactions caused us to have certain beliefs, or what led us down the paths we wandered.

I would love to be able to ask my granddad what Reconstruction in Georgia was like immediately following the Civil War. What his family endured, how they survived, how he ended up in the Oklahoma Indian Territory as a young man to forge a new life. When I knew him, I was only interested in who he was that day, not who he had been or how he reached his current status.

Guess that is the reason people write autobiographies…to tell the story of their lives as they recall it, putting their versions on the good, bad, beautiful and ugly of their past.

edbb6506-800d-41bb-b620-92b5bed43f0dThe reality is who really cares about our pasts, because who we are today is who we were yesterday…just different!

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14 thoughts on “Who We Were Or Who We Are?

  1. Interesting. I do like knowing who we were before, because that is part of the foundation of who we are now, and who we will become. It is the whole. I’m not sure that you can ever amputate the past, maybe just assimilate it. I agree though, most of us are just here for “the now”. 🙂

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  2. Very interesting perspective on your Mom. If she had not saved memorabilia, you would never have known about that period of her life. Sounds like she fell back on her stage persona when she wanted to make a point when you and your sisters were growing up. I wonder if the renaissance in scrapbooking a few years ago is a reflection of wanting to catch moments in time?

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  3. I found a box of memories in my mom’s closet after she passed. I know more about her from that box then she ever told me or I guess I just wasn’t listening. After seeing her life from a box, I started getting rid of some of the things that I’ve kept so, my kids wouldn’t have to put it in a trash can.
    Some things are better left unknown.

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  4. That is true…some things are better left unknown, but my curiosity is such I would like to know anyway. My dad wrote his autobiography when in his 80’s but left out probably the most interesting things about some of the things he had done in his younger days. I am sorry he never shared all of it because I’m wondering if I have some 1/2 siblings that I’ll never know about.

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  5. Thanks for expressing something I feel too. There’s a struggle going on in my head between “See me as I am, without a history!” and “Hey, I exist, I’ve lived several interesting lives already. This is partly an issue of changing identity — but labelling something does not make it easy to untangle the feelings.

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    1. Maybe it takes a third party who can talk to us about who we were, rather than someone who knows us today. My husband was a cowboy…old school cowboy. And when he could no longer ride the range and manage the ranch, it was impossible for him to become someone else. He truly was ‘what he did was who he was’. He became an artist quite good actually, but he remained a cowboy. Interesting.

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