Amsterdam airport is a huge and stark place. Lit by sheets of neon lights, it towers into the heavens and winds into places unseen. There are other airports which are warmer, more familiar, less intimidating, but as I sit here at 8.30 in the morning, I feel more comforted than I have for a long time.
Home for the weekend recently, I chanced upon my father's South Vietnamese Army uniform, the three silver stars still pinned meticulously onto each lapel. Once, as a child, I had looked up to a man who had seemed more like a deity. Hadn't I imagined myself as an adult walking in his soldierly footsteps?
There is a widespread public perception that dementia can lead to a loss of a sense of self, but this notion has not been rigorously investigated. One way to study this is to look at actual cases of brain degeneration, and see if the damage is linked to identity changes perceived by others. Do people with specific kinds of brain damage become no longer themselves?
Remember that to put your identity in anything external can be faulty and it keeps you from ultimate happiness. Recognizing your illusions and questioning your shoulds clears the path for you to lead a more whole, and authentic life. And in the meantime you can learn to see the growing pains as gifts and to discover what really makes you happy.