Monday, April 1, 2013

Why am I Windowing Shopping for an Identity?

Two things happened in the last seventy-two hours or so.

1.) I got a not fantastic grade on a paper and started rethink my entire future plan and my identity. As my dad would say, I am pathetic. But seriously, I am rethinking my future and my identity right now. This person right here? Is open to suggestions.

2.) I talked to somebody awesome I know who is slogging through one of those obnoxious periods of indefiniteness that engenders crises of identity.

I have to go write four essays (and hopefully ace these ones--crossed fingers appreciated), so this will be short, but I've been thinking--

Why do we even have identities?

What, on earth, is the point?

Why do we have to have ways of thinking of ourselves? Why can't we just go through life without thinking about who it is that we are? What practical use has your identity ever been to you? I really am asking, guys.

Because right now I'm thinking of scrapping everything. You know, once I figure out what everything even is. Mostly my identity makes me upset (when I don't do well at things I'm supposedly good at) and restricts me from doing things I might enjoy (like water skiing).

What's the point of identities? The only thing I've been able to come up with is that identities are mental short hand. We perceive ourselves as a certain kind of person so that we don't have to re-make decisions every time someone asks us a question.

Do you want ice cream?

I don't have to think about whether or not I'm really hungry, or anything else. I am the kind of person who like ice cream. I will take the ice cream (unless I'm really full, or it's strawberry) because I am the kind of person who likes ice cream.

My identity tells me that I am likely to like that person over there, tells me that I don't enjoy math, that I am much more likely to have fun reading a book than going to a party, and I probably won't ever change the world, or go to Scotland, but I will revert to dreams of both things when I feel small.

I don't really have to think through these things--do I want ice cream? do I like that person? do I want to do math for fun? should I go to the party? shall I change the world/go to Scotland?--because they are part of my preconceived perception of myself.

Is that good?

Are identities just cognitive laziness? And, if they are, is that bad? What if my preconceived perception of myself is totally bogus?

That wasn't a rhetorical question. I actually want to know. Is this good? Or bad? Is there an alternative?

Thanks for your thoughts, and your crossed fingers, and, you know, sticking with me through my professor's-kid breakdowns.


  1. Time to make 3 lists:
    Ways you identify yourself.
    Things you want to do/be.
    People you admire and want to emulate.

    Smash them together and that's you.

    "Remember who you are and what you represent."

    Be sure to put "great writer" "wit" and "deep thinker" in the first list . . .

  2. My mom told me once that she thinks that perhaps the sinews in our hearts are tuned somehow similar to the strings on violins, and that is why when we hear beautiful violin music it seems to resonate inside of us, almost physically.
    The worst part of an identity crisis for me has been feeling out of touch with my spirit. Paying attention to what's touching my spirit gives me a good idea of who I really am. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could become and take on the characteristics of the things we love? Yes! It would! Paying attention to what's resonating in me gives me a good idea of where, if not who, I am. Because maybe if it resonates, then it's something I'm made of or have potential for. I haven't decided yet whether I really believe in identities, but I know for sure that I don't believe in static identities. I'm glad that you and I are dynamic enough to forget who the heckito we are sometimes.
    And for the record. I love your writing. It makes me think. And that is a gift.
    Also I listened to that TED talk about creativity this morning, the one you and Mel recommended. It was boss. I loved it.

  3. Mom: I think I have every list except the first one. That one is fairly murky, as I try and separate my ego and my insecurities from... whatever else there is. I wonder if identities are something that you piece together like puzzles, or if they sort of form on their own.

    Maurya: I love the idea that I could collect an identity, maybe like a collage. I could cut and paste things that I liked and loved, and somehow form something coherent and whole. I think what we love--the things that echo in our souls--are a big part of what makes us us. But I wonder what else is supposed to make me me. Or, you know, if there is a "supposed to" at all in this whole thing.