Identity. It encompasses our entire being. We question it daily and we question what others perceive it to be. Who we were as a child may or may not be who we are now. Are we that same person we started with? Have we changed completely in a way that coincides with our constant cell renewal? We debate this for most of our lives as people continuously ask you to define yourself in practices we use to make the world more systematic – in an interview, on a resume, in social settings, meeting new people, and even dating websites.
The problem with identity is that it’s interminably dynamic and we are constantly asked to just bring out one layer of it for each intending group of people. For example, on an interview, people may tend to bring out their most professional self with a tinge of comic relief, I imagine this is what most do in order to avoid any awkward moments. I’m not going to speak as if I were a……sailor….per se, even though that is kind of who I am and I’ve always been fine with it. This would not swing well in an interview for most positions unless you are a tattoo artist, or work at Hot Topic. However it’s the expectation and I certainly can’t be mad about it anymore because there are plenty of positions in the world that would almost require a well versed vocabulary in the sailor vernacular…..such as sailor and pirate. AND I COULD BE EITHER IF I DREAMED HARD ENOUGH!
Throughout my life I’ve always wished that people would think I was a fierce, tenacious rebel. From admiring Rufio in the movie Hook and wanting to be Will Smith in Men in Black, I have always wanted to give off that air. Thankfully, in more recent years, they have made many girl bad ass characters like Rose Mcgowen in Jawbreaker, Ellen Page in both Juno and Whip It, Amy Adams in American Hustle
Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect and Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones. (I have a lot of pipe dreams). That last one has certainly drawn my attention because not only is she a bad ass mentally but also physically strong. (Why don’t I just go to the gym more and help my cause??)
I’d say the number one factor in why literally NO ONE on the planet sees me this way is because of my face. I basically look like a sweet doll that only likes to drink Shirley Temples whilst singing “It’s a small world after all.” or “skidamarink a dink a dink, skidimarink a do.” And if you don’t know either of these songs, just pour me a Shirley Temple – shaken not stirred- and we will promptly get started on re-doing your absentee childhood.
I’ve always wanted to be a bartender to combat this. I’ve also always wanted to cover myself in tattoos as well. (See Pinterest Board titled, “Tattoos I love but will never have.”) To this day, I don’t have one tattoo and I often screw up a drink with more than one ingredient. Why is it that we always want to be what we are not? I think in my case, the surface doesn’t always match my mind and this is tough because I’ve felt like I’ve spent a lot of time defending myself because my mind is screaming something that people cannot comprehend coming out of my face. And even when you do finally convince someone that this is how you feel about something, people don’t like it and don’t understand it as if they have a neurocognitive processing issue.
However, I do share very innocent qualities with the likes of a nine year old child such as my love for shows like Boy Meets World that still make me cry every time Cory learns a timely lesson or when Jesse is going to move out of Full House and Michelle gives him her stuffed pig. I also wear Cookie Monster pajama pants and Little Mermaid sweatshirts and you can often find me belting out songs from my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
A friend and I have thoroughly discussed identity through the onion and the artichoke debate. If you are an artichoke, you still obtain your core but also have layers on top of it, gained through varying experiences. If you are an onion, you do not maintain a core and are only made up of layers. I roll this argument around in my mind as much as I do when trying to figure out if I am a big picture or detail type person. I wonder if your core could just be your values and the layers are experiences you have along the way that shape you even more. I’m starting to believe that maybe the layers from experience seep into the core and revise it like the process of a well-written story – it doesn’t completely change the original, but it flows and interconnects much better than before. My favorite part of writing has always been the editing process anyway. You get to work with original thought and change it so that it appeals to more people as well as expresses exactly what you want to display. Editing is an opportunity and molding your identity is one too.
Identity gets even more convoluted as you get older too. As a teenager, it’s something you put on display because you care so much about what others think and it’s a main focal point of your formative years that begs the question, “Who am I?” Now that I am older, I don’t care nearly as much for people to think I’m something that is too difficult to portray. I’m more settled in who I am and who I’ve become. However, I still want an identity. I’m interested to know what people think of me but this time, I’m not trying as hard to actually control it. I guess you can say that I’m more myself than before, but I’m still unsure of what that is.
The road to finding yourself truly lasts a lifetime. People in the past have said that I convey the likes of Peter Pan and that I live “where the wild things are.” I’d like to think I’ve now grown up but still fly to Neverland or explore the forest every once in a while. I wasn’t one to dream of marriage or kids and here I sit, married and contemplating how to raise my hypothetical kids. What I’ve learned from my own ever-wavering identity is to not judge others on something they have said a long time ago that doesn’t ring true with their actions today. People try to define others often and humans can’t ever be defined while they exist here on earth because there is always going to be the variable of change. If someone does something you never imagined they’d do, don’t be surprised. Humans are capable of things outside of their character all the time – good or bad. It just takes the right set of circumstances to set something uncharacteristic in motion. That’s why I’ve tried to change my vocabulary to not include “absolutes” like, “never” and “always.” I tend to now say things like “It depends.” and “At this time, I feel…” I do this because above all else I am earnest and purposeful. I want to be taken seriously in everything I believe in and everything I am. At least what I am right this minute because, as you can imagine, it will change.
Today, and not yesterday or tomorrow (unless of course, I am the same tomorrow as I am today or even who I was yesterday, today…) I’d love it if people think I encompass the following traits:
passionate about very particular topics
great gift giver
My advice for anyone struggling with identity and find themselves at a loss, is to simply define yourself today, be aware of this definition for a time then double check it and see if it is the same at a later date. If it’s not, then be aware that you may have added a layer or even lost a layer and that is fine. The only thing we can rely on with identity is change. Noticing this and allowing this will help you to balance and weigh the change to see if you want to keep it or throw it out. You have the power to create it, change it, manipulate or mold it. Let it be an opportunity to build yourself and also to meet yourself at each phase.
I like your artichoke and onion analogy. I think your core is formed in your early years but like the artichoke there are layers that form/grow and protect that core. As we age some layers fall off and your core becomes visible and you become vulnerable. I think layers fall off and maybe layers are added depending on our life experiences. Just my thought.
I think you may be right!