Identity in a Block of Marble

Immaturity is really just a fear of commitment.

I believe the process of crafting an identity to be destructive rather than constructive.  We do not build ourselves from brick or clay out of nothingness.  Identity starts as a huge block of marble.  Somewhere within that marble is an idea for a sculpture.  As we go through life, we slowly chisel away bits and pieces of the marble until we arrive at an image of who we are.  Each discarded bit of chiseled marble represents one of the infinite possibilities of who we can be.  Each act of chiseling is a decision made.

Alas the Artists’ Curse: we are never content with our creation, because we imagined all the vast and brilliant possibilities before us when our future was still somewhere vague within a block of marble.  Each chip is henceforth cast away in reluctance, for the sculptor becomes aware that the possibilities of what may lie beneath the marble include a future that might possibly be better than other possible futures.

But if the sculptor protests against chiseling, that sculpture will be a shapeless block forever.

Those who do not accept permanent changes in their lives are condemned to live in permanent stagnation.  I exist within that stagnation, for I do not know who I want to become.

I am a career student who has only ever held temporary jobs and has only ever lived in temporary apartments.  I recently visited a good friend of mine in Kansas.  He was a buddy of mine from college.  Since graduating, he has built a career in the military, has acquired a wife, and a has house he can call his own.  Meanwhile, I’m still staring at my block of marble, allowing it to grow dusty and stained with time.  His sculpture is beautiful to me – a modern take on the classic American Dream, but the idea of its permanence is terrifying.

I have no framed pictures on my wall.  I would rather not build the illusion of home.

How do sane individuals arrive at the decision to permanently alter their lives forever, knowing full well that tastes and desires change with time and experience?

How does someone come to the decision: “I want to marry this person.  This person will be the last person I will ever love.  My sixty year-old self won’t regret this.”?

How does one come to the realization that: “I want kids.  Not someday in the distant future.  Not nine months from tomorrow.  Nine months from today.”?

At what point can someone bring oneself to say: “This is home now.  This street is how I will identify myself.  This neighborhood is how my kids will identify themselves.  This is where I want to open presents on Christmas morning twenty years from now, for where I want my children’s hearts to ache from the nostalgia of their idyllic pasts.”?

“This job is the job I want for the rest of my life.  People will know me by my job.  I will retire with this job.  My name will go down in history as being synonymous with this job.  I am its loyal servant, for decades upon decades until I am old and weak.”

“This is how I want the sculpture of my life to look in the Museum of Legacy.”

These questions terrify me, and I feel as though I will never arrive at their answers.  Until I do, I’m condemned to a life of immaturity, staring at a block of marble lazily chipped and mangled, with nothing but the infinite, vague possibilities mocking my foolish and fantastical whims.

About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
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7 Responses to Identity in a Block of Marble

  1. Kristen says:

    Oh man…I know this feeling all too well. As I’m on the brink of some big identity-shaping changes in my life, it’s particularly resonant. How can we ever know that we’ve chosen the right thing? How can we be so audacious as to think that the decision we make now is one we’ll always be happy we made? But sometimes, I think that maybe the rightness is in the choosing itself. In overcoming the paralysis of indecision. I have to believe that choosing something is always better than choosing nothing, even if the something doesn’t turn out to be as good as another something might have been. The might-have-been doesn’t matter; all that matters is what we did choose something, and what we do with it from then on. It’s hard not to grieve all the possibilities that die the second we choose something, but I think it’s better to bring just one possibility to fruition rather than watch them all fall by the wayside before we can decide on one.

    At the risk of sounding super-duper pretentious, I just have to share a Sylvia Plath piece that this post brings to mind:

    “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

    I’m not sure if that’s encouraging or not…but it’s pretty vivid, nonetheless.

    • Bex says:

      That’s a very apropos quote, Kristen. If you don’t choose something, then everything eventually disappears. For Jeff, hopefully those figs will stay on the tree a little longer!

  2. boozilla says:

    The fact that you’re looking at those questions really means you’re getting closer to the right one for you- the right question, for you and nobody else. I don’t think anybody really says to themselves, well this is it FOREVER, until some time in the decision/situation has gone by. External things aren’t always the best identifiers for self. The search is important and for sure it takes as long as it takes; the stillness in waiting is a hard part. Don’t doubt yourself- and don’t give up.

  3. Doctor,

    Any time I feel stuck for inspiration, or feel like no one is writing anything interesting and insightful on the internet any more, I remember your blog. It never fails to disappoint. This post was truly wonderful. You captured the essence of your idea perfectly with your metaphor of the marble statues. I also love the one before it; you provide another very powerful voice to the choir that sings against the organism (or at least bothers to step back and question it). It was extremely self-aware and insightful (shit, I used that adjective already, didn’t I?). I loved it.

    Keep writing. I’m trying to do that myself and when I’m stuck (like now) it’s nice to know I can come here.

    From a fellow doctor (and perhaps a quack myself, depending on who you ask).
    – Talia

    • Doctor Quack says:

      It’s an honor to have you as a reader, and your words mean a lot to me. I often feel like writing is kind of hopeless, silly, or self-indulgent, and it becomes evermore difficult to write. Thank you for your comment. It reminds me that, on the other side of the computer screen, there is not just an empty void, but rather, a human being.

      Good luck in your own endeavors.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply. This is kind of awkward because of its vulnerability – I don’t usually do this…sure, sure they all say that – but if you have some time and a dose of curiosity, I would really appreciate if you could give my blog a look. I’m not sure if my writing style is your cup or tea (or the subject matter for that matter), but it would be wonderful to have some of your input because I greatly respect your writing and taste. And, as you know, we writers are suckers for feedback, especially if it’s honest. Some suggestions to start (or finish) are the Dragons, Cancer and Mountain-Climbing posts. They should be on the first page.

        Thanks for reading this and for the great writing you’re doing. Honesty on the internet is my favourite thing.

  4. Ari says:

    Just the dash of shared sentiment of fleeting hope that I desire in a moment of despair only to return to that aforementioned state. That’s a (possibly) strange explanation as to why I enjoy your blog. Please, do keep writing Burc.

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