It’s a difficult thing, knowing who you are. It seems like there are different sorts of knowing. I could tell you who I was at age 3 with confidence and clarity. Growing up my answer to that question would have been to describe who I’d like to be, which was someone else entirely. Bit by bit I’m learning and discovering who I am and molding that person to be a better version of me, whilst still being me.
We visited the Lammas Project in Pembrokeshire about five years ago and were amazed and inspired. This is a community of self builders who are living off the land. In order to build their houses on non – residential land they have to derive 75% of their income from land based enterprise. They are a group of innovative, creative, resilient people. They are passionate about both what they are doing and why. To me, the arguments make a whole lot of sense.
I think that’s why I found it difficult when we visited. I couldn’t see how I could fit in that kind of environment or live in that kind of way whilst still being honestly myself. I didn’t feel I had anything to offer, nor did I see how I could be like that and still be me. I’m not a very outdoorsy kind of person. I hate getting cold and wet. Sometimes I cry if I’m too tired or have been chilly for too long. As I have mentioned, I keel over at the sight of blood and go wobbly if I don’t eat regularly. I’m just not all that tough.
I was struck by the women at the Lammas Project. I wonder if they would be surprised to hear this. They all seemed so robust and capable, spending days in damp polytunnels to produce masses of gorgeous vegetables, flowing hair ready to blow behind them as they run down a hillside bare foot. I’d fall over. They seemed so on top of everything despite all these crazy quotas and whilst living in temporary accommodation with a brood of healthy looking, energetic children. The reason this was difficult is that I think they are right. Right in their reasons to live in that way and in the way they embrace the challenges and opportunities they experience. I would like to be more like them. But I am not like them.
I’ve decided that’s ok. I’m also aware that I’m almost certainly wrong about at least how easy these women find things. They made it look really easy but maybe it isn’t as easy for them as it looks, and perhaps it won’t be as difficult for me as I expect. It’s a terrible idea to judge by appearances.
So I’ve had my hair cut short. I love having my hair short. I also like letting it grow long. I like change and I like to do what I want, at least as far as my hair is concerned. This was a little bit me saying that I don’t have to look a certain way, be a particular type of strong woman to embark on this adventure. I don’t have to be strong at all. Part of our reason for wanting to build our house is to build something that reflects who we are with a sense that in that kind of environment we will grow and flourish. We will shape the house as we grow and it will reflect that. It seems vital then that we are honest about who we are and feel free to acknowledge ourselves as we are at the outset. Only then do we have the opportunity to do what we are setting out to do, and to improve ourselves in the process. Comparing myself to others should never be part of that process. This is where it stops.
In retrospect, I hate my hair. The cut is terrible. At least I can put it up…