I have been thinking about identity a lot the last few month for a number of reasons. Since quitting UPS, I haven't found another job that is suitable to my school schedule, and I am only taking two classes this semester, so that I would have time to interview and accept a position. So for the last three months I have been an unemployed, part-time student, and this is not the identity that I want for myself. This has led me to examine the many facets of my life in order to make sense of this rut that I find myself in.
Starting with the obvious identities, I am a white male. I can't do much about either of these traits because they are my genes. My DNA has determined that this is who I am, but it doesn't determine how I identify myself. I used the term male instead of man simply because I don't like the label of "man." Do I really want to be a man? Depending on what lens is used, manhood can be great(bringing home the proverbial bacon, defender of one's family, leader of the people), but it also has the potential of great harm(wars, rapes, genocides, you get the picture on this one). With the dichotomous nature of this term, I refuse to identify as such.
I am a Mormon. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have found a theology that helps me have a better relationship with the Divine. I relate to a loving God who knows and understands me in a personal way. I was a missionary in the Philippines in my youth, and that remains one of the greatest experiences in my life. There isn't a day since coming home from those Pacific Islands that I don't think about the amazing people I met and the lessons of love and humility I learned from them. But "Mormon" is not my identity. My politics are not those of my church. My philosophy is not fully contained within the teaching of the church, and so the term "Mormon" is extremely limiting to my expression. While it is certainly a part of who I am, it does not encompass the whole, so you will never see me on a commercial where the catch phrase "and I'm a Mormon" sums up my entire life. My faith guides me to the greater identity but does not define it.
I am an Academic-- at least an undergraduate. I love going to school. I cannot express the joy I feel when sitting in class and something "clicks." I am able to make connections between past experiences and scientific theories in behavior or evaluate the nature of language and its ability to create communities through simple words. College is my "Axis Mundi" (a great subject for another blog post) where I have fixed my orientation to understand the world around me. From this center I can separate the spiritual from the secular and grasp the pearls of knowledge that are in every aspect of learning. I study with some of the brightest scholars in the world. They inspire me. Our professors demand perfection, and I always try to deliver the best papers and create the insightful conversations to meet their expectations. The problem with this identity is that it is not guaranteed. I don't have a scholarship; I pay as I go, and at a private college, it is really tough to manage. I would love to attend graduate school, but that seems like a distant dream right now especially with the inability to have perfect grades. I suppose I ought to be happy being an average student at an extraordinary school, but it really messes with my confidence.
I am a worker-- wait, I am unemployed. Next!
I am a husband, but this is way too complicated, so I am skipping this entirely.
I am a dad. This one feels good. Actually, this one feels perfect. I am a dad. This will never change. Catching a slimy, blue baby changed my life forever in one second. I see the world through different eyes, and I imagine the greatest potential in everyone because I am a dad. I feel that it is my duty to defend the defenseless, feed the hungry, and comfort the hurt from the empathy gained in this role. These are things that feel natural, and I enjoy doing them. This doesn't mean that I see myself a father to every person I meet, but it does mean that if I can help you, then I will help you. I am limited, so my assistance will not be perfect, but I will be there for you. If I have it, then you can have it; don't hesitate in asking.
It is funny how small moments can change us in ways that we never fully comprehend, but I am proud to say that this is who I am-- a dad.