Learning Who We Are by Puzzling Our Selves Together

The other day, my daughter and I saw an interesting drawing: it was of a puzzle being put together by a child who was in the puzzle itself.  My daughter had questions.  Why was the child in the puzzle?  Why was the child doing a puzzle?  She forced me to think about this drawing in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  The more we talked, the more interesting it became to me.  The puzzle-child, like all of us, is putting pieces of herself together as she grows.  I thought about this more this morning as I watched my daughter’s process as she put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Some pieces are easy for her because they clearly match up to other pieces.  Some pieces are more difficult, and she tries to force them together because she thinks they should fit.  Other difficult pieces are so unfamiliar to her that she tries them out in multiple locations, turning them around and around to see if they fit.  Over time, puzzles get easier for her because she does the same one again and again, and she memorizes the pieces.

Self-discovery is much like a puzzle that we both occupy and that we piece together.  We learn some things more easily than others, and the pieces seem to fall into place naturally.  Artistic expression might come naturally to one person, while another is a born engineer.  Other lessons are more difficult.  We might try to force some pieces into our lives that just don’t fit, because we want them to or because we think they should.  Plenty of people start out on one career path only to discover that they aren’t cut out for it, or that it makes them miserable.  When this happens, we eventually learn about who we are not, which is just as important as learning about who we are.   There are also lessons that require us to try different angles and approaches to find out where the pieces fit.  A person may have several romantic relationships before discovering what they want in a relationship.  We need all of these and more approaches in order to really puzzle our selves together.  Over time, life gets easier because we do these puzzles over and over and we memorize the ways in which we learn.

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