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Natalie SkowlandIn the pasture of past lives we linger, our gazes set on the sunrise line of the future, our tired feet treading on to the beat of an imaginary drum.

Our souls are pieces of time compiled into one intricate consciousness, yet we have lost the timepiece by which we can locate all those used-up moments that make us who we are.

So, as we progress on into the future, how can we decipher where exactly it is we are going?

Innate in the discovery of who we are is the study of movement, the study of how and where we plan on heading, as individuals, as a society and as a world. Yet, I believe that how we make sense of who we are when we’re not doing anything can say just as much about our place in this chaotic, fascinating universe.

For the past two years, I’ve made a routine out of walking the same path near my house a few times each week. While at first I felt compelled to deviate from the routine route and explore new walking trails, I began to realize that walking that same path each day allows me to focus less on where I’m going, and more on noticing the small changes surrounding me — flowers blooming, a tree trunk rotting, a new fence built around a particular backyard. I find that walking that same path is meditative, giving me room to explore my thoughts without having to worry about taking a wrong turn somewhere. It’s not new and not too exciting, but I’ve begun to appreciate how wonderful it is to not do anything new or different; to inhale the same air and realize that with each breath, it tastes a little bit different.

Most of us have similar customs — daily tea in the same chair by the window, a certain song always listened to or a poem that never fails to remind us of a close friend living far away. These rituals are special to us, they make our lives fuller and more joyful. So why is it that we often discount these small nuances of daily life as unimportant? For, perhaps it is these moments so quickly tossed away that ultimately define our humanity.

If someone asked you about yourself right now, how would you describe yourself? President of an organization? Mother of Jimmy and Jane? A violin player? Sadly, we seem infatuated with convincing others — and even ourselves — that what we do is who we are.

We are afraid to recognize our inner life as having any importance because somehow it doesn’t seem provable. I have club members to testify I lead a club, I have a journal to prove I write, and I have a folder full of music to show that I play in my school’s orchestra. I love that I am involved in those things, but I also recognize that I am more than my activities.

I am full of love and uncertainty and enthusiasm and many more things that I cannot enunciate verbally, and I know this is true for everyone else I meet. But we are blind and quite afraid to recognize the complexity within our fellow beings. It’s easier to attach people to tangible traits or labels and just leave it at that.

Sure, we may be moving toward a more technical, logical world, but we cannot change the fact that we are emotional beings first, rational beings second. Let’s move forward embracing our need to just be at times, and try to understand who we are when we’re not busy saving the world. Because after the sun has set and we retreat to the comfort of our beds, all we have is the beating of our hearts and an empty room to be filled with thoughts.

Millions of souls all longing to be understood, together.

Natalie Skowland, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, is a guest columnist.

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