Who am I?!
This is a bold and baffling question. The kind of thing that keeps people lying awake at night staring at the ceiling wondering if they'll ever know the answer (well I hope so anyway, it had better not just be me!).
It starts to creep up on us in childhood, although at that time we're barely conscious of it. After the charming innocence of our early years and the blissful lack of self awareness of that time in our lives, we all start on the long journey of trying to find our place in the world. Trying to figure out what makes us unique, special and interesting.
As we enter our adolescence we start experimenting with different friendship groups, new kinds of music, our own choice of (usually awful) clothes and so on, trying to understand what we're all about and what we stand for. My teenage years are a graveyard of embarrassing mistakes, disgraceful behaviour and monumental stupidity. It's amazing I'm still here to tell the tale and, frankly, incredible that I'm even considering it. I rarely ponder on that time in my life (and for good reason!) but here's a glimpse just for you into those terrifying first years of trying to find out who I was...
At the age of 15 I was still hanging around with the same group of friends I met aged 11 on my first day of secondary school. We would pass each other notes in assembly, frequently wet ourselves with laughter, and get in trouble for talking during lessons. A typical weekend for us involved shopping in Miss Selfridge, messing around in the park, and having sleepovers where we'd eat pizza, watch Keanu Reeves films and talk about boys even though we all had braces and didn't know any! Our soundtrack to all of this was a diverse selection of Alanis Morissette, Abba and Five.
I clearly remember speaking to my best friend at the time on the phone one night after school (I, like all teenage girls, seemed to spend endless hours on the phone every night talking to the same people I'd been with all day). In this conversation we decided that our lives were 'sad' and we needed to become 'cool' and so began our effort to 'get a life' and become the awesome people we knew we could be. At that point we actively ditched most of our friends and attempted to worm our way into the in-crowd - mainly consisting of people I wouldn't hang out with now if you paid me. We started going to dodgy house parties (or 'gatherings' as we called them - dear god), getting drunk on 'alcopops' and getting off with random people. I made the excellent decision to get my nose pierced. Then I dyed my hair purple and paraded around in a lovely t-shirt that had the words "Barbie is a Slut" emblazoned across the front.
My poor parents had to put up with a lot of crap from me. On more than one occasion my mum had to drive to questionable parts of London to scrape me off the pavement outside some revolting drinking establishment (you know, the kind that serves 16 year olds) where I was vomiting up the 4 bottles of K Cider I had drunk whilst hanging around with weird people I would now cross the street to avoid. I started smoking (I thought it was disgusting but figured it made me look cool so what the hell!), brought goths and other unsavoury characters over to our house, and would often stay up until 3 in the morning listening to Radiohead on full volume in my bedroom whilst crying and writing a load of rubbish in my diary.
And that's not even the half of it. It actually gets worse, but the rest is too dreadful and humiliating to even consider putting in writing.
Despite the tragic cringe factor of the brief insight I have given you into my 'lost years' the story nicely demonstrates how difficult and awkward it is taking your first steps to becoming your adult self.
It was a relief to everyone, especially me, when I emerged from my teenage years unscathed (just) and decided to set off on my global travels in a bid to 'find myself' on a beach in Thailand. Having now backpacked around Thailand no less than four - yes four! - times in search of myself I can save you loads of time and categorically say it's not the right place to look. Neither is Bali, or Brazil, or Nicaragua, or any of the other exotic places I have been to around the world in search of my elusive 'true self', although I did have a huge amount of fun in all of these places.
At university, and during my early 20s, I was still playing around with my identity trying to work out what kind of person I wanted to be. I had the time of my life meeting loads of great people and really started to grow in confidence. I experimented to my heart's content, fell in love, had some crazy adventures, and finally started to feel like myself.
At last, the real Celia was unfolding.
Since that wonderful time in my life I have continued to grow and change but I'm still very much like the girl I became at university. However, I still don't feel totally sure of my identity or the answers to some of the big questions in life. Where am I going? What am I doing? Who do I want to be? Am I adding value to the world? Does my life count for something? Am I a good person?
Recently I talked with two of my close friends, Laura and Sam, about the contradictions within each of us and how confusing our chameleon like behaviour is for us. Just as you think you're getting to a place where you know who you are and what you like, you go and do something that's the complete opposite of all that.
I crave time on my own but also relish spending lots of time with others. I've always loved classical music but I feel very happy jumping around a hot sweaty dance floor in a club. I'm really lazy but enjoy being busy and even exercising when I actually bother to do it. I can be quite outdoorsy when I want to be and have been on some incredible exotic treks in Costa Rica and Peru but you'll often find me spending a whole day curled up in bed with a book. Eating delicious healthy food gives me so much pleasure but I love tucking into a McDonalds from time to time. Travel is one of my biggest passions but when I'm away I often miss the comforts of home. I'm a happy, positive, optimistic person but I have low days when I feel emotional and lost. I'm strong yet I feel incredibly weak at times. I'm confident but I constantly question myself......
One thing I am sure of this that I'm full of contradictions and it's really annoying!
Do these contradictions mean I have a totally confused identity? Or do they make me a more interesting person? I suppose this behaviour is indicative of the stage of life I'm in now - my early 30s. I've just left behind the madness of my 20s and am entering the adult world of marriage, home ownership and starting a family. My life is changing and I am too.
So back to my original question; who am I?
Well in my own typical contradictory style I would say I still don't really know who I am, but I also feel like I know myself better than I ever have.
I am many things. I am the sum of all my experiences. But most of all, I am a work in progress...