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  • Writer's pictureNate Marshall


Updated: Feb 28, 2023

A Question Asked of All...

While typically reserved for awkward interactions such as accidentally jumping in the wrong Uber vehicle or getting caught air drumming to the song bearing the same name by legendary rock supergroup, The Who; the question “who are you?” is arguably one of the most intimate questions that we can ask another human being. It’s also a question that can evoke a disruptive gamut of emotions when we ask it of ourselves. So, why does a question with such familiarity frequently lead to such personal inner turmoil?

Although the real answer may be just as complex as the question itself, I would argue that human beings typically turn away from this potentially turbulent question due to the fear that they may not like the answer. It’s as if by dipping our toes in this pool of uncertainty, we become concerned that we may be confronted with the reality that we have fallen far short of our own expectations. In my experience, I have witnessed the fear of this discovery sub-consciously direct a person’s intentions away from exploring their own remarkable potential in exchange for the bittersweet bliss that typically accompanies willful ignorance.

What a silly reason to run from such an impactful question!

By turning away from the things that cause us to re-examine our path, we are turning our backs on the very potential we seek to preserve and grow in the first place. In this article, I will share my reasons as to why I believe that the question “who are you?” should be forcefully and fearlessly examined in the hearts and souls of every human being.

When I was a boy, my dream was to be an explorer. I wanted to travel the world in search of adventure and discover treasures found along the way… Only then would I find what I was searching for. Beautiful places? Meaning? An answer? Honestly, I don’t really know… I was 6, so there’s no way to know for certain what I was thinking, but I knew one thing for sure; when I saw something I wanted to do, I did it, as far as my imagination would take me and my parents would allow.

It was during this time in my life when I woke up one day and peeked out my bedroom window. The morning had brought with it 8 inches of fresh snow and it was while gazing at this vast, white expanse that my imagination began to run wild. I began to load my sled with the essential equipment. I grabbed my cooker, a mess kit, and a couple cans of Chunky chicken noodle soup. My trusty German Shepard, Jake, would certainly be joining me on my journey, so I made sure to include his bowl, a bag of dog food, and 2 gallons of water. To ensure I was fully prepared, I also packed my pocketknife, a fire starter, a hatchet, a compass, and a replica civil war musket cap-gun for protection. On the way out the door, I broke the news to my mother. “Don’t expect me back for dinner tonight. Jake and I are going to the south pole. Antarctica.” She answered with the usual “Ok, Hun” ... I got the sense that she didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of my journey, but there was no time to explain. The sun was up, and I needed to go. I began to walk.

It was a little after 6:00pm when my mother heard a commotion at the door and opened to see me, frozen solid, standing there in crushing defeat after having failed to reach the South Pole. She took me inside and after I got warmed up, she opened a National Geographic magazine featuring an article showing real life explorers as they trekked across Antarctica. I learned that I would need a few more dogs, a boat, and a little more experience before I was fully prepared to make the journey. This was the first time I realized that to become the person I wanted to be, I first needed the right tools. It’s also the first time I remember having an answer to the question “who are you?” ... In this moment, the answer was clear “I am an explorer who seeks new experiences”.

As I grew up, I had many more experiences that led me to directly confront the question “who are you?”, and instead of fleeing from those encounters, I sought to use the opportunities to discover and understand the heart of the very question itself. Although I haven’t reached Antarctica (yet), the courage to seek new experiences led me to discover my desire to grow into a man who embodies courage, strength, and a willingness to fearlessly explore the unknown. Today, I am proud to be more than 6-year-old Nate ever could have imagined. I am a man who exudes trust, reliability, and integrity. I work diligently to protect and provide for my family. I am a dedicated leader, a passionate teacher, and a proud student; always willing to learn something new. I am a man who lives to love and loves by discovering the good every moment while always being willing to help solve the complex problems that naturally arise when pushing the boundaries in any space. I am proud to be a loyal teammate who others can count on to help them reach their peaks while also being a pillar of strength during periods of uncertainty.

Throughout my entire life, I have heard the statement “you are your own worst enemy”, but by directly confronting my own personal limitations, I have found that sometimes, you can be your own greatest advocate. By directly confronting my own fears, I was able to discover the man I truly am. Today, I utilize everything I have learned to help others to focus on uncovering similar clarity in their own lives. Now, when I am asked the question “who are you?”, I stop for a moment and smile, because I am proud to share the answer.

This is why I believe that the question “who are you?” should be forcefully and fearlessly examined in the hearts and souls of every human being.

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