Where does one start with defining their personal identity?
Do I start with the name I was given upon birth?
Or at age 5, the year I began wearing glasses?
Do I mention high school, the years of attempting to find self-esteem and a date?
Or of the first foray into adulthood, securing my own apartment at the age of 18?
What about securing a job that would take me on a 40-year journey?
Or how I failed to run away upon meeting the future husband?
Do you know me yet?
Do I talk about successes and failures in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s?
Or about the places and material items that bring happiness and delight?
Do I revisit the significant life change at the age of 52.
Or wax poetic about two cats, an orange bike, and chocolate?
What about the Christian faith that gives me peace and hope?
Or the desire to spend time with an elderly mom?
How about now? Do you know me?
Identity can be as simple as a name on a driver’s license or as complex as the culmination of 58 years of life. Identity can be a one-word description of “interesting” or a multi-adjective sentence of, “Funny, smart, loving, awesome and nerdy.” Identity can come from the color of hair, a signature pair of glasses, or the style of clothes one wears.
The Perception of Others.
The identifiable Mary J. can begin with others’ perception of who they believe I am. Shortly after this week’s challenge was posted, I ran an unofficial survey on Facebook. I asked:
“Who am I? From what you know of me, provide an identity in three words or less. GO!”
Fifteen friends responded with a variety of answers. Even though I had hoped for a larger number of responses, this was a good start. A few of the responses:
“Devoted to friendship; intellectual, fun, busy; thoughtful, creative, kind; hard-working gal; most excellent writer.”
Thank you, I appreciate your kind words. I also received two comments that reminded me I am in a circle that pays close attention to the career of an indie singer and musician by the name of Bo Bice. Remember him? American Idol, Season 4. He is now the lead singer for Blood, Sweat & Tears. I am a groupie fan.
The comments that made me smile?
“Fellow cat lady; Biker Chick Mary; funny kitty biker; Kona bike chick; cats, cycles, football; witty, positive, cyclist.”
There appears to be recurring theme to my identity.
Lastly, comments that made me LOL…
“Doesn’t like snow; friend of Dan”
This from the mouths of two fellow bloggers, Heather and Cheryl. I only wish that Dan had responded on Facebook with a smart-a** comment. It is too late now.
What does this all mean? Who am I?
Self-perception of identity isn’t always nice. I tend to berate myself when I’m something less than perfect – “Stupid idiot! What are you doing? What were you thinking?” I look in the mirror on certain days and see myself as old or not attractive or someone without enough conviction to stop eating cookies or go regularly to the gym. I made a comment before about high school and self-esteem. Let me tell you that through life’s circumstances, self-esteem, assertiveness, and confidence have been difficult rows to hoe. There are days when I feel as though I can whip the world, that I am strong and secure and can stand up to anyone for what I believe in. Then, there are days when I feel the awkward, unsure nerd rearing her mangy head.
I believe the latter is all in my head and I have to get over it…right after I clean up the Cheerios I spilled all over the kitchen floor because I wasn’t paying attention.
Reality Sets In
I could have written a much longer post and dwelled on each and every one of the Facebook comments and my own perceptions, but I did not want to tag this post with #snorefest.
Reality about identity set in this morning as I was reading a question pertaining to last Sunday’s sermon at church. It asked, “What, apart from your faith, do you find to be life giving?” I remember our pastor light-heartedly commenting that for some it was coffee. Oh yes, coffee. That is definitely life-giving. But so is chocolate and bike rides and adult refreshment and new shoes and road trips and a medium-rare New York strip. How do I respond to that question without 10,000 answers?
It’s simple, really. None of those items or actions would mean anything without community. People. Family. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers. Church peeps. Bloggers. Groupies. The lady who packages up my cupcakes at the bakery. The guy who plows a foot of snow off the roadway. The Wal-Mart greeter. The woman who asks me to reach something on the top shelf at the grocery store. People in need of a smile and a hot meal.
I am a people person. That is my identity in a nutshell. I may not be the greatest conversationalist. I may not be the life of the party. I may go hide in my bedroom or get lost for a couple of hours because I need to be alone. Most often, though, I yearn to be around and with people. I want to do things with them, share a laugh or a meal, exchange stories, go biking, and converse back and forth about cats and parents. And when I can’t be face-to-face with another human? You’ll find me crafting connections on Facebook and with blogging friends. Some of those connections are virtual at this point, having never met them in person…but they are still people. I enjoy getting to know them and bits and pieces of their life.
Natasha and I are entertaining two of our neighbors Saturday night. The four of us are all single women, close to the same age. We exchange recipes, go for walks and bike rides, and borrow pantry items from one another. The last time the four of us gathered for dinner, we had many laughs, shared stories and decided that one bottle of wine was not enough. On Saturday, there will be brats, at least two bottles of wine, and friendship. People warm my heart and soul and give life itself a purpose. Without them, what’s the point of existence? How do I form Mary J. without them?
You, dear people, have given me identity.