The Identity Series
The light is dim in the room, setting the kind of ambiance made for intimate conversations to be held.
People milled about, fluidly mingling, stranger and acquaintance alike. She wonders whether she should go for known or unknown company. Those she knows may actually be more unpredictable in their initial exchanges, for strangers will almost always pose the inevitable icebreaker question. And how would she answer it this time, should she tell the whole truth?
I’ve noticed that the question of “what do you do for a living” seems to simultaneously translate into “who you are” in our society.
Such an idea really irks me and never has this become more irritating than since I took a break from my humanitarian career to be at home with Jasper. This question can still invoke fear and shame inside of me. From the time it hits my ears, there is a moment of internal struggle and a follow-up obligation to say “but I used to be a…” Real or perceived, I find it difficult to have the same level of social clout because my I’m not working that traditional 9 to 5 that would so “easily” explain who I am to society. This is so archaic and frustrating.
Through the Looking Glass…
Identity is complex — complex to process within ourselves and complex to talk about. Our most salient identity (and the one most outwardly shared with the world) tends to be our conventional job. However this particular identity doesn’t always align with what is in our hearts and how we truly see ourselves. It is fascinating how people hold on so tightly to identities that may not serve them anymore.
The good news for us dreamers is that people can be many things. Yes, everyone needs to make a living somehow, but just because you plug away all day as a computer analyst and then write gothic horror stories at night, doesn’t mean that you are only a computer analyst to the world. Such tunnel vision is suffocating and weighs us down rather than lifting us upwards to meet our hopes head on. Instead we should be taking an internal roll call, shedding light on each identity we feel is meaningful in showing people who we are and foster them to thrive.
I’ve struggled [and continue] with this notion of choosing “one thing” as my main identity. I mean, who says you have to choose one? Social norms seem to demand that we discern ourselves (and allow others to do so) around one major character. I am a social worker, I am a writer, I am a lawyer, I am a painter. I just can’t agree with this approach to identity. Our lives are long and fluid, the perfect conditions for growth and change to take root periodically.
Becoming a parent is a prime example of a turning point in ones individuality, creating a time for reassessment of our values. Children have a way of showing us how little we know and giving us fresh (and often improved) perspective. For me, motherhood shifted my path and sense of self. I let some things go and gained other things, striving to find acceptance in these evolutions. But I still have a lot to work on, I’m still not “there” in fully understanding and actualizing where I want to be.
I imagine that many of you are having similar internal conversations, perhaps without an outlet and/or sense of direction. The feelings, struggles, and victories I’ve encountered (and continue to experience) during my identity journey, may resonate with you. And so I dreamed up the Identity Series — a vehicle to share my thoughts on altering dialogue (both internal and external) to change perceptions in identity in our daily lives.
Stay tuned for more writings in the Identity Series!