Ash Wednesday leads to self reflection
March 14, 2014
Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which means that Christians from all over flocked to church to ring in the beginning of Lent and get ashes put on their forehead in the shape of a cross.
Me being one of those Christians, I did exactly that. I went to church and I got the ashes put on my forehead. I then went to dinner and returned back to my dorm, ashes still present on my forehead. Eventually, however, I decided that it was time to wash them off. I guess I did not want to walk around all day with them on, thinking that it would be pretty obnoxious of me. But when I erased the cross from my forehead, I suddenly felt ashamed of what I was doing. Did I not want others to know that I was a Christian? Was I not proud of what I believed in? Then another troubling thought crossed my mind, if who we are was marked on our foreheads, would we try to erase it?
We go through our lives with a certain number of identities: female or male, Republican or Democrat, Broadway musical lover or gangster rap enthusiast and each one of our identities tells something different about us and molds us into who we are. We inherit them, we shed them and we pick them up along the way. The identities we choose to own end up defining us in a very necessary way. But if all those identities were written on our foreheads, “Christian,” “student,” “animal lover,” would we be ashamed? Every day we see and hear one message: be proud of who you are. Do not let the voices and images around you influence how you feel about yourself. Be yourself. But is that how we really feel about ourselves, from our little quirks to our defining factors? Would we be able to have who we really are displayed to the world and still be able to walk around proudly?
We all like to say that we are proud of who we are and what we believe in, but when it comes time to broadcast that kind of thing out to the world, the question has to be asked if you would actually do it or not. Would we be able to yell out loud that we play right fi eld for an adult league softball team and love every minute of it, or that we avidly believe in ghosts? Do we let ourselves be proud enough of who we are to not be ashamed of the things that separate us from the crowd? And not to say that we are ashamed of the things that makes us different or the things we involve ourselves in, but asking yourself the question on whether or not you are okay with yourself enough to broadcast it is a good way of keeping your priorities straight.
And I guess that is all we can do: ask ourselves every now and then if what we are doing is the way we would like to be seen. If yes, then by all means, do your thing. Join that Star Wars fan club or practice whatever religion you want to. Just when you do, throw yourself into it and finally be proud of your identifiers.
Natalie Howell is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2016-2017 academic year.