You and I Can Never Be Empty Vessels

Yasmeen El Gerbi
8 min readNov 20, 2022
Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

I was told I could be whoever I want to be. I can change the world if I wanted to. I can make all my dreams come true. A naive excitement enveloped my younger self who thought she could shape the world as she pleased. I booked my plane ticket to another part of the world to make my dreams come true and change the world for the better. I always wanted to make a good impact through some personal initiative. In my teenage years, I wanted to be a nutritionist so I could help people become more healthy, and then I wanted to be a neuroscientist so I could uncover the secrets of the mind and help people with their mental health, and then I wanted to be a politician so I could help society move through stubborn issues such as income inequality.

But how did I decide the dreams that I wanted to pursue? Answering this question isn’t simple, which perhaps is one reason why I am now doing a PhD in critical social psychology. Although I know I want to delve deep into how we become what we become, and how we think what we think, I am still not sure what I want to do with a PhD. So that’s where I am, a PhD student. I don’t have any tangible or specific goal of where that should lead to yet, even though I continue to feel the pressure of needing certainty; that being unsure of where you want to go isn’t a good sign. But why is that? I think I made some progress in transcending the linearity of my earlier life goals and I am happy about it, because I currently see it as a sign of growth and depth. Although I am content with finding myself in uncertainty, I am also feeling hesitant about it, because I must know at some point what my goal is. And I intend to do that, but not through the linearity of my earlier years. What I hope to convey through taking you into the mind of my younger self is a world view slowly emerging in my “personal” consciousness.

I choose a metaphor to represent this vision, which is that you and I can never be empty vessels. I don’t mean to trigger an existential crisis — but I want to offer an alternative vision of you, me, and us, as full vessels — always changing — never fixed — never alone. I am not me by just the virtue of personal initiative, and you are not you just because you decided to be who you are. My personal initiative isn’t entirely personal. Your independent decisions aren’t entirely independent.

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Yasmeen El Gerbi

I like exploring the complexity underlying our ideas, emotions, stories, norms, and lives.