Saturday, 9 June 2012

Choose Your Identity

When I go to write a comment on someone's post, blogger gives me the option to "choose [my] identity." I can go with Blythe, which I always do, or enter just about anything else I could possibly choose. What freedom!

It made me think about the choosing-my-identity process I experienced all through adolescence. Now, I know some things are pretty hard-wired (I am a delicate blossom when it comes to emotions, and there's no pretending I'm not. I'll cry at anything.), but other characteristics of mine are deliberate choices. I choose to find humour and joy in the tiniest of things, to blow bubbles, to jump in puddles, to laugh easily. I choose to guard memories fiercely, by taking thousands of photographs, by organising them and displaying them, by keeping notes, cards, programmes, posters. I choose to abstain from meat, which sometimes involves people "jokingly" arguing with me (seriously, guys, have you ever actually convinced a vegetarian to eat meat?), and often involves respectful differences of opinion (and, when in France, involves a LOT of fries and salad and "croque monsieur sans jambon").

I could go on forever, but the characteristics that make up who I am, but chances are you can figure a lot of these out for yourself. Some of them are unavoidable (please see: delicate blossom), but a lot were the product of a lot of experimentation. Oh, adolescence.

It's a bitch, isn't it? Your friends are becoming who THEY are, you are becoming who YOU are, and sometimes it's hard to figure out what they want, versus what you want, versus what you THINK you should want. I tried all sorts of things-- maybe I could be The Hippie One, and I wore long skirts, and went barefoot much of the time. Or maybe I could be The American One. After all, I was one of very few Americans at my school in Taiwan. I wore flag-themed t-shirts, and came to the defense of the US as best I could, at each moment. That was pretty short-lived. Our politics at the time were hard to defend, and the behaviour of our tourists is sometimes pretty outrageous. Maybe I was The Domestic One? I embraced baking (which I have always enjoyed), and made a point to remember Useful Household Tips. (Thinking back on this phase has been particularly handy at this point in my life.) I was never The Rebellious One, or The Risk Taker-- those didn't appeal to me, and still don't. Mostly I just rotated different aspects of my personality, and focused on each as the Main Thing.

It took me years before I realised that I could be ALL of these things, ALL of the time, or maybe NONE of these things, as I so chose. I wanted to be something definite, something easy, because continuing to figure yourself out is SUCH a process. It's one I have decided to embrace, though... largely because I don't have any other options. The more I explore, though, the more I enjoy the process of exploration.

That's one of the things that is particularly interesting about working with kids. I get to watch them choosing their identities, and finding what is hard-wired and what is optional. It's fun to see what they choose to emphasise at different times, and fascinating to watch what persists. It's a wild ride-- for them, and for me-- but I wouldn't have it any other way.

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