Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Identity

About a year after earning my Master's Degree in English, I applied for a position at a local community college. The Campus Director and I sat down to interview. Mr. Bishop welcomed me to the school, settled into his chair, and asked, "So, who is Dionne?"

I was dumbfounded. Who was I? How do I answer this question?

I looked him straight in the eye and answered, "I don't know."

At the time, I was a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend/fiance. But primarily, I had spent the past two years as a graduate student. I was also a graduate teaching fellow, meaning all my time was taken up with my own homework, or planning my classes and grading my students' writing. And then, I graduated, earning my place in society, and losing sight of who I was at the same time.

How often do we have to search to understand who we are? Why does it seem that, as soon as we know who we are, what we stand for and believe in, and what stands we will take for our convictions, we get comfortable and WHAM! something changes and we have to redefine ourselves.

Changes occur constantly, and we expect that big changes will cause us to reexamine our lives. But sometimes it's the small ones, seemingly insignificant, that sneak up on us to the point where we don't even realize why we're feeling disconcerted, disoriented, discombobulated. And then, we have no choice but to dig out that metaphoric magnifying glass. I find that a glass of wine sometimes helps. I find, personally, often, that quiet time helps. But I know myself well enough to understand that as an introvert, I won't ever feel centered or be able to discern what is wrong if I'm perpetually surrounded by people and noise.

Regardless, our efforts to define who we are is never-ending, constantly altering. My most recent shift still has me going in circles at times - balance is still an issue - unrelenting. It probably won't slack off until the school year ends, but then I'll shift again, becoming "merely" a homemaker for the summer. Please note the quotations. But I want to send out a request and a comment - for any of my readers/friends/relatives who find themselves struggling with their identity due to changes big and small - it sometimes helps to talk. I am, by nature, a rather contemplative creature. And though I won't necessarily volunteer to talk with someone - at least not until I've sifted first, I do find it helps to talk. So, if any of you ever feel a need to just vent, spout, vomit your emotions, as a neutral party, I'm here for you.

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