"Who am I?" That is the question my generation is asking. We are a people desperate for self-definition yet refusing to be defined. Do not try to label us by our country, our job, our denomination, our parents, or any cleverly devised social construct. Your categories are a cage and we long to be free.
In our search for understanding we tried many schemes. Early on we thought our interests could define us. "I read fantasy." We dressed in robes and wizard hats and played Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. We were happy here, for a time, but only as a fish who has not yet sensed the limitations of his bowl. And so, like a curse upon our heads, we matured and left the simplicity of our youthful delusion that we are not so complex. "Am I nothing more than a consumer of other men's visions immersed in a false world of someone else's thoughts? There must be more to me." We looked to our fathers for answers, but they were either absent or in the midst of their own crisis of retirement redefinition. When we asked, "Who am I?" we got "I don't know, but what has my life meant?" If they can't look at us and see their answer maybe we should look elsewhere.
We have tried friends, marriages, and in our despair even full time work, but the cure still eludes us. No one knows us, and worse, we do not know ourselves. With our anchors raised and all the beacons torn down we are tossed haplessly by a raging world who sees us only as a number on a sales report. We are without a compass on this journey and clouds of doubt and regret cover all the stars that might guide us. It is dark and wet and cold and the wind is constantly changing. Will we find a peaceful bay or be smashed against the rocks?
This is the story of my generation, yes, but it is not my story. Do not presume I have come to gloat, I know we all struggle, this is just not mine. From the outside it seems the whole issue is one of approval. After a lifetime of criticism for doing the things you love, and praise for things done in ambivalence (doing the things they told you should be done), I don't blame your confusion. The real question is not "Who am I?" but "Which me do I most approve of?" When you look back on a life lived their way you say, "That wasn't me" but the problem is that it was you, a you you hate. Your search is not one of self-definition as much as self-approval. Until now you have defined yourself by their praise. You can admit it was a flawed approach, but the better way is still amiss. Do you trust the folk wisdom, "Follow your heart"? What if your heart sets you on a path towards destruction? And what of pop Christian wisdom, "Find your approval in God"? Is this so easy? If you trust in West-Coast-Jesus he approves of everyone, and if you trust in Mid-West-Jesus he approves of no one. Neither is helpful in your search. A Jesus in our own image is easy to love, but he is utterly useless. I do not presume to know the path you seek, but I am sure it is easier to walk with company than it is to walk alone.