An idea that was brought to the surface in Eat, Pray Love, was the idea of “the word of the street”…that every city has a single word that defines it and the people who pound its pavement. Rome’s word was described as SEX, Vatican City as POWER, New York as ACHIEVE,” Los Angeles as SUCCEED, Stockholm as CONFORM, Naples as FIGHT….that all people who inhabited these places were thinking about it, breathing, it, eating, it, living it, whatever the word may be. And if that’s not your word for yourself, then it’s obvious why it wouldn’t be a place that you could live out your days.
Naturally, it begs the question: what is your word? This is something I’ve had experience with recently in class. We were asked to take a page of 100 values, and cross off ten at a time that don’t describe us. Keep in mind, all these words are outstandingly positive, but as the guest speaker said, “You can’t be all things to all people. End with five that people who don’t even know you will use to describe you after having met you.” It was a very difficult task to cross off thing like Knowledge, Leadership, Adventure, Personal Growth….because, of course, we wanted to tattoo our bodies with these values. But the exercise was to find five that resonate with every aspect of your life…every aspect. Everyone was going to have different answers, based on their experiences. For example, one whose parents passed away and left them in debt chose Financial Security. Mine came to be: Having a family, Integrity, Loyalty, Love, and Decisiveness. All for my own reasons.
So I was used to trying to narrow myself down and find out what resonated with every cell in my body. But one word? It seems an unfathomable task….we like to see ourselves as too complex to be defined so narrowly.
I still resonate with NYC, and question leaving, because I’m completely in tune with ACHIEVE. It seems possible that our words could change over time as we taste different stages of our life….we could, oh hypothetically speaking of course, go from LOVE to OBSESSION to FAITHFUL to NAIVE to BROKEN to DEPRESSION to SILENT in, say, six months. But that’s the point of this exercise, I suppose, to pick one word that is you, that doesn’t change with your trials or your joys, but goes with you everywhere, your shadow of honesty and truth.
It took no time at all, rather disappointingly, to know mine. I felt it should be this exhaustive hurdle to be able to define yourself in one word…that it highlighted your lack of depth if it took shorter than a month of searching. Alas, it was obvious. As I stepped out into the rain tonight to buy fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil for dinner (drenched in the olive oil Luciano gave us as a gift from his Tuscan olive trees), I knew mine.
UNCONDITIONAL. As I opened my black, lopsided umbrella, there was no mistaking its truth. Its realization sucked the very breath from my lungs, and I keeled over, sobbing on 75th street. So I knew there was no looking further.