Who Am I?

What questions am I carrying?

This is the guiding topic for Brazil Day during ReEntry Training. As my bridge year winds down to a close and I start thinking of activities to suggest to lead that day, I’ve been thinking a lot about one question in particular.

“Who Am I?”

In my opinion, one of the biggest misconceptions of The Gap Year is that we will find the answer to this question once we leave our homes, everything we know, and immerse ourselves in a new and challenging setting.

I definitely fell victim to this idealistic assumption that all my problems would be solved and I would become “the best me” once I figured out exactly who I am. Knowing the truest and deepest me would make me whole, bring me peace, and make me shine brighter in the world. Makes sense, right?

But, as anyone older and wiser would tell me, how much more naive, how much more wrong, could I have been. I wouldn’t be able to figure out who I am in just 7 months abroad. No, self-discovery takes years.

But I know who I am. I am Elise Ksor Steenburgh. I am the daughter of Tim Wojan and Lila Ksor. I am the older sister of Christian and Olivia Steenburgh. I am Eh-lee-zee. I am an intercambista (exchange student) from the United States living in Brazil.

Eu sou. I am.

I love the verb ser in Portuguese. It means “to be”, but Portuguese has another verb, estar, that also translates to “to be”. The difference is that ser is to be something permanently, and estar is to be something temporarily.

So, eu sou Elise. I am Elise. That is who I am.

The real questions that I think were answered in my Gap Year were “How Am I?” and “Why Am I?”.

How is the way that I am expressed to the world. The way I express myself. The way the world sees me.

Why is the reasoning behind it all. Still not why I am who, but why I am how.

Who is unchanging. Why and how grow and evolve with you. Who is a label. How is a description. Why is an explanation.

Who: Elise, author of LoveAndPeaceElise.com

How: I hesitate in posting blogs, such as this one. As of date, I have 45 blog drafts, mostly finished, yet still waiting. Unpublished.

Why: They’re my thoughts. Did anyone really ask to hear them? Are they worth sharing? Am I just a kid who thinks she has everything figured out with this magical discovery of who and how and why, but in reality everyone around me already knew it but didn’t tell me? Am I preaching to the choir?

Why, deeper: My insecurity with posting my own thoughts come from countless experiences being shut down. Times I’ve begun telling stories or wild thoughts that come to my mind and being told that I was being crazy. Or not being listened to at all, like when I start a story, getting through only the first sentence, but repeating it maybe 2 or 3 times because I am always being talked over or someone else has drawn the conversation’s attention. So a part of me starts thinking I shouldn’t bother sharing at all. And I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this.

So Eu Sou Elise, author of LoveAndPeaceElise.com, but Eu Estou an author who fears publishing and making her thoughts and writing permanent. I am (temporarily) the How and Why I am. I can change that, and I will.

What questions am I carrying?

How can I share who I am, who I’ve become through this experience in GCY and in Brazil, genuinely?

By reshaping how and why I am.

Who: Elise, author of LoveAndPeaceElise.com

How: As my capstone project for Global Citizen Year, I will be refining and publishing all of my blog drafts. I will post journal entries, reflections, doodles, pictures, videos, and other media I have used to document my year on my blog.

Why: I need to find a way to share my experience, genuinely. I have to complete the project to graduate from GCY and get the cute backpack that the staff and alumni get. I need to clear my drafts box. I paid for this domain name, and I need to make it worth it.

Why, deeper: I have to learn to love and validate my experience. I have to learn to realize that it’s not all self-centered and obnoxious to tell my stories. I have to take care of my thoughts and realizations, and believe in them and in myself. I have to give myself credibility for what I’ve accomplished and take ownership over what I missed out on. I have to make a dent in the long, arduous process of discovering who am I?

Love and Peace,


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