On Forging Identity

I was walking home from the park today.

The road home from my local park splits into two paths shortly before I reach my apartment.

There’s the one which is quite wide and cars even drive on sometimes; it’s convenient for carrying bags or groceries, is suitable for bicycles, and it runs directly adjacent to a series of apartment buildings.

Then there’s the other path that runs parallel to the first. However, this second path has some wooded and bushy cover, twisted roots turning up the pavement, flowers dripped into eye-line by some bushes and tree-dwelling vines, and the occasional bird or squirrel going about its busy day. It is at once a little bit more dangerous and ever-so-slightly more charming; probably the increased danger is what gives it its alluring mystery.

Sometimes I take the big road, but usually I take the nature-imbibed path; in any case, I never think too much about my choice.

Today, however, I was walking home from the park, and shortly before I reached the fork in the road between the two paths, a boy and his mom biked past me, and I got to watch them make their choice of which path to take.

As I expected, they passed right by the offshoot that splits into the charming tree-covered path, staying to the main road—after all, they were on bicycles.

But just as they’d passed the fork, the kid said to his mom, “Mom, I’m gonna take my path!”, and I saw him spin around on his bike, come back to the fork in the road, and go down the charming path.

It was cute. I feel like I witnessed in one moment, one step on his journey of identity formation. He had chosen this path and identified himself with it, and had expended extra effort to cement that identity; and, most beautifully, he had done so not in opposition to his mother, but as an extension of her.

On the small chance that you, little kid on the bike, are out there reading this, I wish you the best on your journey. And also, by the way, it’s not your path – it’s mine.

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