For the second time in my blog’s short history, I will quote Jay-Z.
“No matter where you go, you are what you are player/
And you can try to change but that’s just the top layer/
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here.”
I’ve been thinking about this quote lately, not only because I am an unabashed Jay-Z fan who still bumps a cd that came out when I was senior in college, but also because, strangely enough, something I read in Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0 brought it to mind.
The whole premise of Strengths Finder is that people are unhappy and unproductive in their jobs because we do not do work which plays to our strengths. The book and its online assessment tool are designed to help you ascertain what your strengths are, and to help you create an action plan to find a job that utilizes those strengths. Rath indicates that our personalities–and thus, our passions, interests, and again, our strengths– are established early on in life, and remain relatively the same. He points to a 2003 study entitled, “Children’s behavioral styles at age 3 are linked to their adult personality traits at age 26.” In this study, scientists in New Zealand observed 1,000 3-year-olds. Twenty-three years later, they re-observed those 3-year-olds, now adults, and found that the behaviors exhibited as children were remarkably similar to those behaviors exhibited at age 26. In another study, researchers compared teacher personality ratings of 2,400 ethnically diverse Hawaiian schoolchildren with videotaped interviews of 144 of the same students, conducted 40 years later. Those researchers found pretty much the same thing… as Jay-Z so eloquently put it: you are what you are.
I asked Marvs what I was like as a kid. At first she said, “Oh God, Keisha, I don’t even remember what I wore yesterday.” But I pressed her, and finally, she said, “You were very quiet. Pensive, almost, which was strange for such a small child. You were affectionate with us, but distrustful of strangers. You were not very friendly with people you first met. Like Cas. He tried to hold you, you said, “No!” and crossed your arms. You were like that as a baby. No one could hold you except me, your father, or Norma. But once Cas came over a few times, you played with him, showed him your books. And you loved for me to read to you. Sometimes I’d catch you going through our books, turning the pages like you were actually reading.”
She went on to tell me that I never liked cold weather, but I loved going to the beach and playing in the water. I loved dresses and had very strong opinions about what I wanted to wear. I asked her what I liked to do as a child and she said quickly, “Read. You always had a book in your hand. I couldn’t get you to leave the house without one. And once you learned to write, you always had a notebook to scribble in. You liked to ride your bike, you liked to dance, you liked to swim. You liked to spend time with your grandmother, you liked talking to her a lot. You wanted to know about her childhood. You were very sensitive. Cried about everything. Sometimes I wanted to slap you to give you something to really cry about. You loved going to Trinidad, you liked traveling anywhere, really. You had fun packing. You never cried on planes. Never complained about walking around strange cities. You were always curious. You wanted to know everything. You never stopped asking questions. ”
So if I am now, at almost-30, who I always was, that means:
I am a bibliophile writer, sensitive and curious, who likes to travel, likes to be physically active, who enjoys spending time with my family, and prefers balmy weather.
It’s also interesting that my Strengths Finder assessment was pretty accurate, based on what Marvs had to say. My top 5 themes are deliberative, input, restorative, intellection, and context. That means I am: careful, vigilant, private. An inquisitive collector of words, facts, books, quotations, who loves to solve problems, loves mental activity, and looks back to understand the present.
You’d think I would know who I was by now. I think it’s more likely that I’ve always known, but somehow managed to forget.
As I approach 30 (it’s coming so quickly!), I hope I’ll spend the next decade actually being who I am. I’ve wasted quite enough time just figuring it out.
But now that I know…you better watch out!