Saturday, May 5, 2007

10 Things Tuesday*^—What is your identity?

So, how do you see yourself? Identity was the topic of an engaging and thought-provoking discussion during a recent faculty meeting at my school, and I have been thinking a lot about the topic since. Identity is different from stereotype. While the latter seeks to categorize individuals using simple labels imposed from the outside, the former establishes from the individual not just a label, but a context for it. Sometimes stereotyping is necessary, since our survival often depends on our ability to make snap judgements based on generalities. Understanding our own identities, however, gives us a key to appreciating the beauty and complexity of the many facets of who we are. All of us are the sum of a great many things. Our experiences, our relationships, our heritage and our geography are only some of what make us distinct.

This week, then, I offer to you 10 of the myriad identities that make up my unique brand of self. They are in no particular order.

1. Teacher. I have known I wanted to teach since I was 13 years old, and it is the only profession to which I have ever truly asipired. I enjoy preparing lessons, honing delivery, sharing my experiences and seeing students take something from them that they find valuable and relevant to their lives. I am blessed to teach in a school that matches very well my own philosophies of teaching, and I hope I am able to help create a school that does as well for others.

2. Papa. I love my children fiercely. I am so incredibly proud of them and the way they are coming into their own as individuals. It is an indescribably exciting experience to be part of their growing up. I feel privileged that they chose me as their papa. I hope I am worthy of such an honor.

3. Husband to my Best Friend. I am married to a woman who is, in every way, my partner. We have adventured, planned, created and realized in wonderful ways during our 12 years of marriage, and I thoroughly enjoy doing all that we do together. Our marriage has a motto: We got along so well we decided to get married. I choose the word “husband” for this identity because it implies the commitment that is the foundation of our marriage, but the word “companion” should definitely be understood as a component of our relationship.

4. Athlete. I haven’t felt like this identity was very strong in me for several years, but I’m excited to feel able-bodied again. I have always loved the comraderie of competitive team sports (soccer has been number one on this list for as long as I can remember), but I also love the challenge of individual endeavors like triathlons and distance cycling. I do not consider myself to be a fabulous athlete; I do not expect to ever be tops in any sport I practice. I ride and run because I enjoy it. I coach soccer and softball because it is exciting and a wonderful way to be social with young men and women I would otherwise only get to see in a classroom (and because it is wonderful exercise trying to keep up with them).

5. Linguist. I know six languages fairly well, and bits and pieces of probably another another half dozen (if you count ASL) but, more than that, I love the connection to other cultures that knowing these languages provides. It is incredibly empowering to be able to understand and communicate to someone from a different part of the world, with different experiences, opinions and ways of seeing the world, yet with all the same basic needs and feelings I have. I have a gift for seeing connections and patterns in languages, too, which makes exploring new languages fun. If only it helped me with my Scrabble® game!

6. Gourmand. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but food is my friend. I love to cook and prepare food, but I’m even more of a fan of savoring and sampling it. Yes, I appreciate refined cuisine, but there’s much to enjoy in the world of plebian fare. I make a mean filet mignon, for example, but little in the world beats good truck stop biscuits and gravy. I can eat a wide variety of foods (though I can’t see myself eating some of the stuff they show on Fear Factor) and I’m perfectly willing to try new things—especially if there’s garlic and olive oil involved.

7. Independent Thinker. I do not easily align myself with groups. I am not a member of any churches, unions, political parties, professional organizations or issue-based social groups, and have found very few such institutions that match my values closely enough to endorse. Part of the reason for this may be that I sit squarely in the middle of “moderate” on most issues, and I can appreciate and accept (and sometimes even reject) more than one side of an argument. I guess I just don’t see things the way others do. The things I often see as key points of an issue are just not what the mainstream is looking at.

8. Visionary. I am a big picture person. I see things as they might be, if their full potential is realized, though I also work hard to see their realistic side. I am concerned with the end result, and rely on the detail-oriented people to take care of the minutiae. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the process. I may be able to see the end product well, but I recognize the importance of the path I take to achieve it.

9. Problem Solver. If something is wrong, my first instinct is to fix it. This identity serves pretty well with toasters, cars and other such devices since I’m fairly mechanically inclined (and blessed with a good understanding of what my limits are). In interpersonal matters, however, this identity does not always serve people well. If you tell me something is the matter, I will probably remember to sympathize. I will try to be a good listener while you vent about it. I will do my best to offer my love and support, but I will always be thinking about how to make things better. Because people do not always bring problems to light for the purpose of having them solved, the drive to actually solve them can, on occasion, be a bit of a liability.

10. Adventurer. I like to challenge myself by stretching the bounds of my abilities. I’m doing a 400+ mile bike ride to Pennsylvania this summer in part just to see if I can do it. I love to push myself mentally, as well. I like puzzles, riddles and brainteasers of all kinds, especially if they’re of a kind I’ve never seen before. Why? Call it an affirmation of my belief in the capacity of humanity (myself included) to accomplish powerful and amazing things. Adventuring, for me, also means experiencing things that are unfamiliar. I love to travel for this reason, but this kind of adventure is one of those things that can easily be done without leaving your country. Have you ever been to a restaurant and put yourself in the hands of the chef? How about shopping for a suit or dress that highlights an identity you do not show very often (you don’t have to buy the outfit to enjoy the experience of having an experienced merchant show you what the possibilities are)? Take a walk or a drive to some part of your neighborhood you’ve never seen before, or go to an event you might never attend otherwise. I am often pleasantly surprised by the experience of just exploring the unknown.

What are some of your identities?

* I had this post started last Friday, but just couldn’t seem to finish it up. It’s done, and I’m posting it now. Sorry for the delay!

^ I’m thinking about changing the theme to 13 Things Thursday (Chili says the alliteration is important). I never seem come up with ideas for these until Monday, which leaves me scrambling to sit down and actually write it all out in time for Tuesday. If I change the day, maybe I’ll have more time to finish at least one (supposed to be) regular weekly post. Any bets on how well it works out?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like it - and the idea of posting a list of identity markers. I did something a little bit like this around New Year's, but you did a better job at it than I. I'll have to ruminate for a bit to see what I come up with...