defining multitudes

I really hate year-end posts, new year’s resolutions, and in general all things cliche’ and mainstream about the close of one year and the launch of another. And yet, inevitably, I always find myself contemplating the events of these past 52 weeks and wondering what it all meant, missing the lovely moments, reflecting on the hardness, and looking towards all that the next 365 days contain (and, in the words of John Green, they contain multitudes).

This year has been heavy; the only way to describe the past 12 months is “full”. I’ve been full of so many things: joy, sorrow, goodbyes, long days of endless adventure, long days of endless boredom, pizza, love, fear, and so much life. (again, multitudes). I think I’ve experienced more change this year than ever before. And yet, in the midst of all the change I’ve been forced to uncover the constants in my life, and I’ve been forced to lean on them, to grip tightly to my identity as everything else around me shifts. I’ve learned a lot about loving others, but even more I’ve learned a lot about loving myself. I’ve struggled a lot with being in every moment, and allowing myself to be fully present. But more than anything, I think this year I’ve grappled most with definition; I’ve searched for who I am and what defines me as a human being.

People often talk about “finding who I am”, and “discovering myself”. Yet throughout this year I’ve come to terms with the understanding that I will never completely discover myself because I contain multitudes. Through the years of high school, and even middle school, who I am was innately tied to who I lived with and the activities that I participated in: I was a Paulson, a Christian, a dancer, a friend, an artist, etc. However, with so much change occurring throughout 2016 I was blatantly confronted with the problem of my individual definition apart from what I did and who I surrounded myself with. In May I felt a void in who I was as I said goodbye to my competitive dance career, and in August the void became a chasm in my mind when I changed my major from Dance Performance to Graphic Design. I felt like I was throwing away a crucial part of who I was, who I am; the removal of dance as a prominent feature in my career and my life was like a bullet in a vital organ. I felt, subconsciously, as if I was losing myself.

As a result of this loss I found myself attempting to substitute the empty space with other valuable traits, disciplines, and passions, but the emptiness in the hollow of my stomach was perpetual, regardless of what I did or thought or pushed for. Removing dance from being a primary focus in my life caused me to rethink who I was and what caused me to be that person.

And I can honestly tell you, I still don’t know. I still don’t know who I am or what is most important to me, and the only thing I know for sure is that I never really will. I, just like you, contain multitudes, universes which will never be remotely uncovered. All I can tell you is that in thinking about these struggles for a while I have realized how valuable every individual decision I make is in shaping who I am as a person. Every moment of bliss and excitement, every rush of adrenaline, every pang of aching loneliness, each second of my existence defines, in one small way or another, who I am and who I will become.

As terrifying as this understanding is, I realize how empowering it is at the same moment. Yet I still struggle so hard, every day, with those things which define who I am, and I haven’t gotten much better at defining myself with lasting labels. But I’m trying. I’m rewriting myself, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I want to become foremost a lover, of God, of life, and of human beings. I want to become an artist, but more specifically (and importantly) an authentic artist. I want to become someone who is driven by their passions instead of their present emotions, and I want to learn to be peacefully in every moment. I have a hard time, however, finding practical ways to accomplish these intangible goals, and I must constantly meditate on them in order to truly change. But I know now how these things go, and I have learned to walk one step at a time.

So I suppose what can be learned from this is that when you have an identity crisis (or any type of crisis, to be honest), the things which you lean upon during these times are essential. I wish I could say that during this time of my life I spent countless hours reading the bible and praying for God’s direction in my life, but in all honesty that’s not even close to the truth. This time of searching looked far different from any other prior season in my life, and as a result, so did my relationship with God. I learned a lot more about prayer as a form of constant communication instead of a ritual, and my conversations with God became far more casual. My bible reading was constricted to short moments in the early morning and then scattered, irregular times in the prayer tower or in church services. I was forced to find God in the in-between places and in the uncertainty of my misplaced identity.

I wish the resolution to these struggles was apparent and tangible, and that I could assure you that now I’m stable and secure in who I am and what I’m doing, but it’s not, and I can’t. I know nothing of who I am except that I belong to the Father and that He has a purpose for me to bring Him glory in the midst of all this mess. But I hope that comfort and encouragement can be found within this insecurity, because honestly, does anyone really know what they’re doing?

I would love to say that I think, in 2017, that I’ll finally “find myself”, but I don’t believe that will be the case. Perhaps, however, I’ll begin to define myself again, beginning from a solid foundation. Maybe I’ll finally begin to intentionally shape myself into more of who I want to become.

So cheers, to a year of intentional living, to defining ourselves, to being, to loving who we are, and to drinking LOTS more coffee. This year, I believe, we’ll find grace in all the most unlikely places, and we’ll discover the multitudes we’re made from.

“You contain multitudes”

-allison nicole-


(this post is powered by 3 cups of coffee and WALLS by Kings of Leon)

Published by Allison Nicole Art

artist and photographer

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