It amazes me how, in a world with billions of people, each of whom has a nearly identical set of genes, it can be so difficult to find someone on the same page as you when it comes to interests, beliefs, perspectives and priorities. I suppose each experience we undergo – every book we read, TV show we watch, childhood (or adulthood) interaction and life event, big or small – affects us uniquely, leading us to embrace or discard things, in order to build what seems like a sensible, enjoyable framework in which to understand and live life.
Throughout the course of three decades, but especially in the last few years, my own interests have diverged in three (or more) distinct directions, each of which seems to have increasingly less interaction with the other. I don’t like this, mainly because I feel as if nobody understands the ‘real’ me, but I’m not sure how to change it, or even if I really can or want to. I chose the title ‘Life in 4D’ not to suggest that my own life is particularly extensive on every axis, but because it’s how I’ve begun to visualise it: growing and stretching in different dimensions, with my identity becoming increasingly separated between them.
I recently imagined a scenario in which I came to a sudden and tragic end (don’t read into that too much), upon which my funeral was arranged. Realistically, I’d expect a few dozen people to show up here in Australia. There would probably be most of my church, a few friends from the school community, a few colleagues and maybe a handful from the gym. As representatives from each of these communities rose to share memories of how I touched their lives, I imagine the surprise that would be evident on some of the other’s faces as they heard about who I was from their point of view. I guess I thought by writing this blog post I could help clarify in advance, both for my own sake and that of the dear guests attending my untimely, hypothetical funeral, who I think I am and the various dimensions I occupy:
- Fitness (The X Dimension): I’ve always liked sports, especially team sports of the not-too-serious variety. As my kids have grown more playful (and heavier), I began to realise that one game of casual soccer per week wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to keep up with them; I needed core strength. This was my main motivation for starting CrossFit, because I wanted to build strength and CrossFit seems to be successful at achieving that, with the added bonus of having a team atmosphere, and no mirrors. I kept pretty quiet about my CrossFit involvement for a while, but as I’ve become more muscly and stuff I’ve had to explain it to people. I’ve achieved my initial goal of not being a pathetic weakling, but I continue to go a few times a week because I genuinely feel great after a hard workout. Despite all my gainz, I still hesitate to identity myself as a CrossFitter, or even a gym-goer.
- Faith (The Y Dimension – see what I’m doing here?): I grew up in church. Some of it was pretty cool, some of it I didn’t like at all. I believed what I was taught, then grew up a bit and questioned it all, then grew up some more and chose to continue to believe that God is real, that there is meaning and purpose to existence and that Jesus is at the core of it all. He’s a fantastic teacher and his true followers can only be described as Top Blokes. He really demonstrated love in its fullness, being led like a lamb to the slaughter and forgiving those in the very act of doing it. I challenge anyone to read through the New Testament and find any ulterior motive to Christianity than love of the undeserving. If there is any quality you admire in me, it’s probably a result of my desire to be like Jesus. I identify as a Christian more than anything else, yet I rarely talk about this with people outside of Dimension Y, I guess because it’s kind of uncomfortable for many people.
- Science (dangit, this one doesn’t cleverly suit the letter Z, nor does it start with an ‘F’): It can be challenging believing in God (particularly a fundamentally good one) and loving science, but I do. I love the study of nature, the pursuit of answers to perplexing questions, the beauty of physics and the eloquence of mathematical language. Professionally speaking I’m a geologist, which is how lots of people likely identify me; however, this is an aspect I consider relatively disposable, of least significance to me. Lots of people in Dimension Z and Dimension Y are sceptical of, or even hostile toward, one another, but I try not to be too hostile toward myself. There are so few people in my life with whom I share these two interests that I tend to mitigate the loneliness of it by reading like-minded bloggers like The Natural Historian and GeoChristian.
Fatherhood is the fourth dimension (Time), which suits it well because it keeps steaming forward no matter what I do, permeating all others dimensions. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a dad, and now that I am one, I love it. Everyone knows this about me, and it’s the only dimension I feel perfectly comfortable talking about with anyone (even blatant kid-haters). The other great thing about having kids is that they know me and accept me and love me just as I am. To them, I am a CrossFitter and a Christian and a Geologist and they love all of it, because they love me. No topic is off-limits or uncomfortable (yet) and they see no reason why I shouldn’t read the Bible, collect rocks and swing upside down on monkey bars as much as I like. Eventually they’ll find me super embarrassing, but I’ll make the most of that too.
Have I gotten any further ahead by writing this out? I don’t know. It’s natural, probably healthy and wise in some respects, to be selective about which aspects of yourself you choose to reveal to others (or the entire internet), but it’s funny to think that your Tim is different to Kathryn’s Tim, who’s different to my colleagues’ Tim, who’s different to my church family’s Tim and CrossFit Tim. And I’m sure they’re all different to how I perceive myself.
How about you – do you feel like you’ve selectively withheld aspects of your identity and now can’t seem to bring them all together with any one person or group? Perhaps this is more normal than I’m aware of. If you’ve made it this far into the post I’d definitely be keen to hear your thoughts on the matter.
’til next time,
Tim the Patriarchal Angel of Science and Gainz