There is a scene in Call me by your name almost at the start of the movie where everyone is having breakfast and when Mafalda notices how much Oliver likes the soft-boiled egg prepared for him and offers him another one. His answer to that is “I know myself too well, if I have a second I am going to have a third and then a fourth, and then you’re just going to have to roll me out of here.” Just like Elio is left puzzled to that answer I was left wondering too, about how much (/little) I know myself, about how much I like the confidence that that simple yet so profound phrase expresses when noticing it in others. It was in that exact moment that I started asking myself what did I know about myself and why is that so that led me towards a version of myself that I had never encountered before, a version that learnt to know her own skin and to get comfortable in it.
The fact that Oliver says “I know myself too well” when he is referring to how he would react to having more of something that he really liked to eat, something so mundane, was what I found most astonishing, so that became my starting point: I started to make a mental list of the simple, silly things that I liked and disliked and my habits: I’m an early bird, always, I can’t listen to podcasts for more than 2 minutes (I’ve tried, more than once, it is beyond me), I find self-help books quite irritating, I have the patience to finish a 1000 pieces puzzle by myself in a short time but not enough to not surpass slow people on the sidewalk, the only sport that really works for me is swimming; I could go on for awhile like this.
As with pretty much in everything in life I tend to go on until I realize the reasons why; our likes and dislikes are just footprints that lead to our personality if you know how to track them and personalities are built over time as well as “inherited”, as I realized. It was this line of reasoning that lead me to what I still consider the biggest epiphany I’ve ever head: we are own parents. I have my mother’s (sometimes exaggerated) empathy, her caring nature of everyone in her life, her ability of showing affection by teasing and making fun of people. I am also my father, who is irritated easily but also can calm himself almost instantly by listening to music loudly, his ability to know how to take care of himself as well his taste in music, even the horrid italian singer whose name rhymes with Tasco Bossi; I could on for awhile likes this also.
This conviction of mine gets stronger as more people I get to know well and get to know their parents as well: it has yet to happen that I don’t find the same traits on their parents, that I don’t see the similarities between them. This is not however to say that we do not go beyond them, that they are the limit and we cannot surpass that. On the contrary, I also notice the things that I do differently, how my very different experiences in life have shaped me, how I try to do better when noticing their mistakes; I notice also the things that I now pass to my parents as we have entered a period of “parenting the parent” as I call it where the roles are somehow reversed.
This revelation can be less thrilling if we think of biology and how it all comes down to that, how we easily notice the obvious physical similarities with our parents (how many times did Harry Potter have to hear the phrase “You have your mother’s eyes Harry”?). It is however intriguing to also consider how our behaviors are affected by what we see frequently and how we directly or indirectly take on from our surroundings, if we would be different if we were raised by other parents like in the case of adopted people. When it comes to this it becomes less biological and more environmental or rather a mix of the two where it is hard to mark the separating line. It is more thrilling though if we think of it as a stop along the self-discovery journey, that as everything else that is small when seen from outside but can be quite significant in our small world, the sense of self taking shape and becoming clearer which in the end is a quest that every individual is after.