I find myself staring at a piece of paper, it is a set of mock interview questions and the first one is "Tell me about yourself". This is a standard question that I have answered hundreds of times in my life and yet here I am at 39, staring at it with a blank mind. There are so many ways I can answer this question and yet I feel like none would be sufficient enough to tell about myself to someone new. How do I start to answer and where do I being? Do I begin with my origins, where I was born, where I was brought up and who are my parents? That seems so factual and basic, like a census of a country, or like a fact list about my existence. I can walk them through my professional career and here too it is not a one word answer, the various teams and types of work would be a long list. Sometimes the variety of things I have worked on or tried out just makes them seem all over the place to consolidate to anything substantial, at least in my head. Why now is this question seeming so heavy and intellectual and philosophical when it is the most basic question there is out there? An open ended, easy breezy question that I should be able to answer even in my sleep, and yet here I am staring at this piece of paper for days not being able to answer this question. Has any question sometimes stumped you?
I could start off by saying there are multiple facets to me and on the professional front I have managed projects and taken care of a content management platform for a big company, on the personal front I am great friend and on the creative front I am an author, podcast host, an intuitive guide and tarot practitioner. After saying this, maybe the interviewer will move on to other questions, considering this is just an ice breaker, but it still does not satisfy me. I will not have found the satisfaction of having answered this nor having found an answer for this question. Does it beg a bigger question of Who am I? Like the great Ramana Maharishi guides, that the only question worth asking and looking for an answer is this, Who am I?
We all start with a single identity when we are born, we are babies who are either male or female. That's it. When you are born everyone is curious to know, whether you are a boy or a girl and they all celebrate and feel happy knowing our gender. I presume happy for most of us, unless your parents really hoped for the other. Then in a few hours or few days, we get assigned a named, something we either carry till death or decide to change later on, proving that our name is not our identity in the true sense. As we grow up, our relationships start defining us, son of so and so, or daughter of so and so, sister, brother, classmate, and so on. In our academic years, our identity is mainly that of a student, a student of this college, this school, this major and so on. When we pass out and answer this question in our first interview, it seems like the easiest one to answer. We share about our parents, our college, our city and so on. Later as the years pass on, we fall in love or find partners and enter serious relationships, and the excitement of defining ourselves in these new relationships is exhilarating. To be known now as someone's wife or husband, and then in a few years as someone's father or mother. All the while our financial and social status is being defined, depending on the society's barometer of success, we continue to be measured and defined. We are also defined by our conduct and interactions with society and the law, opportunities to be known as a responsible member of society or a misfit.
Our accomplishments and social service are feathers in our cap and as we move ahead in our existence things are added or sometimes removed. We get divorced or separated and suddenly tags are removed and our identity again is re-defined. We lose loved ones, we lose jobs and sometimes we lose everything we own. Think of the refugees from war torn nations, one day they may have it all and in a split second they are stripped of even their nationality and are just defined as refugees, suddenly they are unwanted and a burden to the nations offering them help. Even if we remove all the extremes from this and come back to ourselves in the normal sense, what do I tell someone about me? And why do I find answering this so burdensome? Is it because I have reached a stage in life where I no longer feel the need to impress? or there is so much to my story that a few lines will never be sufficient? Maybe it is a combination of the all, there is so much to me at the same time nothing unique enough, at least in my mind.
Well, I am not that famous, critical or in the VVIP cadre to have this affect me externally and so I have the luxury of mulling over this one question or choosing to answer it the way I like to. I sometimes envy those who have simpler notions of life and suffice with a single answer, without needing to delve deeper into any of this. At least on a professional front they need not explain what they do. I sometimes get reminded of the character "Chandler Bing" from friends, his friends are clueless even after years of knowing him as to what does he really does. This so resonates with my own professional life. The solace I find is those who are close to me and love me don't really need to define me in any way. They are happy with me the way I am and I am hoping this is the case with everyone else.
So this seems to be one of those never ending questions, without a time line, ever evolving, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated and yet asked so often. Difficult to answer during those transition phases in life when one is between two worlds, nudging one to yearn for the finish line when things seem much more solid. Especially when one is redefining relationships, going through divorces or separation, loss of a partner due to death or even moving out of a family identity to become self-made. In this new world of modern families, mixed identities and the freedom to choose our labels, sometimes can tend to either liberate or confuse us equally. Be warned though that there may never be a permanent solid line and as life transitions so does this question. Hence maybe the pursuit of finding the perfect answer is futile, as long as we have an answer that we can relate with, that is sufficient. While I have managed to come up with a few lines for the corporate interview question, I am still trying to figure out an answer that resonates with me.
Does this question bring in intrigue for you too? and if so, how would you choose to answer this? Would love to hear your versions of the answer to this question, so don't hesitate to drop in your comments.