When I was a teenager, I struggled with many things. This is not especially surprising–turbulence in adolescence is generally the rule, not the exception. In particular, and again a fairly common experience, was struggling with my identity. I felt intuitively that figuring out who I was would help me better deal with my disabilities. This attitude was encouraged by all of the counseling I was undergoing through elementary school, high school and university which encouraged self-examination and self-knowledge.
One of the things that ended up helping me greatly however was a surprising source: the Star Wars EU books. Specifically, two series that were released during my intermdiate elementary school and high school years: The New Jedi Order series and the original Clone Wars multimedia project. Perhaps the most helpful book was the New Jedi Order book Traitor by Matthew Stover. In it, a character named Jacen Solo was struggling to find his place in a war that threatened the entire galaxy. He didn’t know who he was and was paralyzed by doubt and the fear of throwing things out of balnce. He received unorthodox instruction by a Jedi of the Old Republic named Vergere who taught him, among other things, that he didn’t have to know, all he had to do was choose. This message was repeated throughout the New Jedi Order series and the original Clone Wars multimedia project.
This idea was astounding to me, and quickly latched on to my conscious thoughts. The idea that I didn’t have to know what I was, that I could simply choose what to do in any given situation was revolutionary: it was tempting, and freeing, and scary all at once. Yet as I began to realize that the root of my fear was overthinking, and as I grew no closer to figuring out who I was, I began to put it into practice. I moved my focus from figuring out who I was so I could make the right choices, to letting my choices define who I was. The more I did that, the more I began to relax and simply trust my feelings–and my life got progressively more manageable as a result.
Now, all these years later, I am immensely grateful for that. I used to focus far too much on the big picture, and I used to think and analyze far too much. I’ve learned how to listen to, trust in, and follow my feelings. In focusing on choices, my choices did define who I was, and now my identity is known to me at a deep, intuitive level–because it has been shaped by my choices.
So I encourage all of you: if you find yourself focusing on the big picture too much, get paralyzed by too many thoughts and doubt and analysis, switch your focus. Simply choose what you feel is right in this moment, knowing you can always choose different later. You may find that switching the focus breaks the loop-snarl, and opens up a new universe of possibilities.