Friday, October 18, 2019

Who am I


I've been researching what is necessary to change my name. I went looking for my birth certificate, marriage certificate and final divorce decree and could not find them. After a couple of days of hunting I found the divorce decree and then quite by accident found the marriage certificate, but the birth certificate eluded me. I went online to find out how to get a new copy. I was born in Ontario and it turns out that they are so fearful of fraud that they make it exceedingly difficult. Among other things I need a Guarantor, someone of a specific occupation or government position that has known me for two years. And I had to have all sorts of data about my parents on hand, stuff that I know was on the lost certificate so I certainly didn't bother writing it down elsewhere. For a while there I felt stymied. But again, quite by accident, I found the birth certificate tucked into a little folder intended for my SIN card. It is a photostat of the original record of my birth and I think I first got it when I was a teenager so it is quite old and well worn. I probably should get one of those plasticized cards, but at least there's no rush on that now, having found the original.

The other thing I found out is that in order to change my name on my passport I have to buy a brand new one, and that's not cheap. I only renewed my passport a few months ago and it is supposed to last me for 10 years, so at the time I thought it was worth the cost. I couldn't put it off because I was already at the deadline for being able to renew instead of starting a whole new application, which would have required a few extra steps. But now, in order to change my name, I have to do the whole new application anyway. Wish I'd thought about the name change thing a few months ago, I could have saved myself a bit of money. Since I have no immediate plans to travel I'll just put off the passport thing. Everything else is tedious but doable.

Thinking about all this has opened up a whole new line of enquiry, who am I anyway? It's been interesting.

When I was 21 several friends and I rented a house together in downtown Toronto, near Kensington Market. For a while we were putting up draft dodgers who needed a place to stay, until we ran into a couple who were drug-addicted thieves, then we gave it up as not worth it. But before the thieves we had one fellow who was very grateful for our help and gave us ten tabs of acid as a thank you gift. We planned our use of those ten tabs very carefully. Our first trip started in our tiny backyard on a warm summer day.

We each ate one tab and waited on a blanket spread on the grass for whatever was going to happen. At one point someone brought some oranges out and distributed them. I remember breaking mine open and it was the most absorbing experience. At a certain point it seemed like I was inside the orange experiencing all of its orangeness and being in total awe of this little orange globe. Looking around and seeing the grass move in amazing geometric patterns around us. It was quite wonderful. In the midst of all that wonder and beauty I had the thought, "I belong here."

It was no small thought, it was a revelation. Until that moment I was unaware of how much I believed that I didn't belong, I didn't fit in, I wasn't right. That other people knew what they were doing but I did not, I felt I was in constant catch-up mode and all the while trying to hide that fact. I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't really belong here and I was a kind of impostor. Now in a flash I knew that just wasn't true, I absolutely belonged and I was absolutely a rightful part of the whole universe.

That moment has been a touchstone for me ever since. All I have to do is think of oranges and it washes over me. So when I think about who I am, I know I can just invent it, I can be anything. Of course the realistic me sets all sorts of limits on that, but still it is something to keep in mind. I am currently thinking about how much of my life is defined by assumptions, and how many of those assumptions I can let go.

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