Brave enough to change?

Dianne St. Jean

I recently came across an article in a Kamloops This Week paper about a man in Penticton who had multiple tickets for panhandling, and finally accepted a plea deal in court to pay $145 in fines.

However, outside the court, he told reporters that if he gets up in the morning and his cupboard is empty, he has no other choice but to continue panhandling. He justified his reasoning by saying that it’s better to panhandle than “going down to the Safeway to help yourself”.

What struck me about this story was the fact that the man obviously believes he only has two choices, and because of that has already made up his mind which of the two is the ‘lesser evil’. He seems to admit that panhandling is wrong, however, given no other choice…

And this is the point of the matter. Choice.

While we may be tempted to judge the man and wonder, why doesn’t he get a job, for example, how many of us are actually just like him?

Perhaps we would never dream of panhandling or stealing, but how many of us continue to do the same things in the same way without really thinking of why we do what we do, and how we do it?

Sometimes it’s just a rut – habit, sometimes it’s fear – what we ignore we don’t have to deal with. Sometimes it’s mere comfort – meh – why should I stress myself? But sometimes, it’s because we’ve actually convinced ourselves that (to use the title of a popular TV series)…This Is Us!

Whether it’s a career or job, even staying at home raising the kids, the way we choose to dress, the kinds of food we eat, all those things contribute to our identity. And, it’s ingrained identity that resists change the most.

When I was quite young, I had two passions, drawing and writing. I grew to prefer drawing, and it wasn’t until I looked back that I realized I chose drawing as a preference to my identity because that was what I did openly. I was good at it, so I got compliments, and that encouraged me, so much to the point that I presumed my future career would be or should be in art. But, I wrote as well. Since I was eight or nine, I wrote poems, and they were good too. I had a knack for rhythm and rhyme and making words come together as easy as breathing. But – these were more secret and unshared, so, I was not encouraged or complimented to write, simply because that was a ‘hidden’ part of me.

So, I grew up believing myself to be an artist, because that is what I was called; but I never considered myself to be a writer, until I went back to University as an adult and received awards and almost perfect marks on my writing assignments – especially research essays.

What people see of us on the outside contributes to our ‘labels’, to our identity, and if we hear it enough, we begin to staunchly defend that identity to ourselves.

But what if, one day, you’re presented with an opportunity that you never, ever believed would happen? What if it involved a job or a move that you never anticipated coming your way? And what would you do if that chance to go a different course secretly stirs your spirit, even if it doesn’t fit your current identity?

Although we like to think we know who we are, or that we plan our paths in life, sometimes the unexpected happens.

When the times comes, will you have the courage to change your job, your image, your life?

Or will you be like the man who can only see himself as a panhandler?