For some time I've thought that people should be judged morally on their actions, what they say and do because we don't really know what's in their hearts. A person, for example, may have bigoted and prejudiced thoughts, but if they don't talk or act on those thoughts, to me they are not bigots. I cannot look into souls. I've come to believe that, in my case at least, self-identity is similarly determined by actions. For the past forty years this identity has been as a husband, father, businessman, fisherman, etc. because most of my daily actions were in accordance with those categories. While I have my political beliefs, taste in music, and other things important to me, those are subordinate to the more important categories above because there are less actions associated.
I'm thinking these thoughts because of a passage in a novel I just read, Richard Ford's Let Me Be Frank With You. On his way to visit his ex-wife, the protagonist muses that she is an essentialist who believes we all have essential selves, a character we cannot do anything about. This contrasts to his beliefs that "we have only what we did yesterday, what we do today, and what we might still do." He is about my age and has come to act and view himself according to what he calls his "Default Self" although he concedes "it's not that different from a bedrock self, except it's our creation, rather than us being its."
This Default Self concept sounds similar to thoughts I've recently had about a certain freedom concerning the stage of life I share with Ford's character. In the role of a manager in business and as a father, I felt I had to act at times in ways I would have preferred not to, to enforce rules and push people away from or in line with certain behaviors. Now, my children are grown and I no longer work, so my actions are more consistent with what I want to do rather than what I feel I have to do. Ford's protagonist would probably say that whatever I do now is consciously my creation of a Default Self whereas his wife would probably say I'm acting now more in line with my essential character. Whichever the interpretation, it is one of the better aspects of growing old.