I’m walking my garbage can to the curb for the penultimate time this month. My neighbor is doing the same. He is a man with whom, for seven years, I’ve only exchanged occasional nods. It’s still dark out, but I suddenly hear him speak. He asks me, “Who are you, anyway?”
Is he being rude or just curious? Either way, I figure his question deserves a response, so I stand next to my garbage thinking of an appropriate answer.
Is he wondering about my job? About my family? Do my past or current circumstances really define who I am? Somehow, none of this seems to be what he’s asking about.
Maybe he wants to know about my core beliefs, what I really care about. After all, aren’t the beliefs we accumulate over a lifetime, and the way they cause us to feel and act, the most representative feature of who we are?
Tired of my silent self-reflection, my neighbor starts walking back to his house. I feel my time to respond running out. This could be the start of a meaningful friendship.
“My name is Don,” I call out in the dark.
I hear nothing back. My neighbor is already at his door.
As I slowly head inside, I have several thoughts on my mind:
He was just being friendly and I blew an opportunity.
The tendency to overthink things can undermine an otherwise simple answer.
I still don’t know his name.
And just who am I, anyway?