Identity: What Did I Miss?

I’m staring at the ID card I’ve had for several years.

This card tells everyone Mary is a permanent employee for a state government agency and assigns an ID number. It also contains one of the few ID or driver’s license photos in which I don’t appear to have woken from a two-day drunk.

ID stands for “identity,” but you wouldn’t learn much about me from the plastic rectangle that is clipped to a piece of wardrobe Monday through Friday. If you personally knew me, you would know I can’t stand to have a lanyard or piece of jewelry around my neck. I swear things hanging from my neck start up headaches, although it could simply be psychosomatic. Is this part of my identity a physical issue or an irrational phobia?

 YourDictionary.com defines identity as “who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you.”

So, who exactly am I?

Many years ago, I was at a training titled “Who are Hue?” It was a personality color test. Have you taken one? Did you agree with the results? In my case, I scored highest in the gold spectrum, which meant I was a highly organized individual. (My computer desk at home would tell you otherwise.) The secondary color was orange, which signified risk taking. At the time, I drove a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which is not always a safe adventure, but I did not consider myself a person who seeks to take risks. For example, you would be hard-pressed to take me bungee jumping or sky diving. And since the day of the color test, I’ve traded in the motorcycle for a bicycle, which has its own risks, but at a much lower speed.

There are numerous ways in which I can self-identify or let others choose how to recognize and perceive the sixty-one year old that walks planet Earth.

Physical Identity

When babies are born, mom and dad are initially recognized by voice, touch and smell until those little eyes start to focus. Within two months of birth, babies begin to take note of the world around them and the physical appearance of their parents – mom, with the jet black hair and dark brown eyes, doesn’t stand as tall as dad, who has a shaven head and piercing blue eyes. By eight months, babies can identify their parents from across the room.

I inherited mom’s dark hair (now gray under the dye) and dad’s blue eyes. I don’t remember when I first noticed either feature, but they both had physical attributes that were easy to recognize. Mom had a certain gait to her walk and dad’s vocal chords always gave him away. Both had light olive skin and their height meant that I would be taller than mom and my brother would be taller than dad. Mom and dad wore eyeglasses, which has been my fate since second grade.

Physicality is how most humans identify other humans.

She’s a new member at church. I recognize her because she’s so petite.

He works at the health food store…such a nice smile.”

I don’t remember her name, but she has the most beautiful peachy skin I’ve ever seen.”

Until I learn your name, it’s how I will identify you most often. Unless, of course, you have body odor, in which case I would not have to see you to know you are in the room.

Names, Titles, Numbers

I’m Mary. You’re Joe. I’m a supervisor. You’re the IT guy. We both have work ID cards with numbers that are entered in the program that provides a paycheck every two weeks. While Joe and I know each other (and our titles) on site, the payroll program knows us by our name, ID number and a few additional details such as a DOB. It can’t tell how tall we are, the color of our hair or our fashion sense.

Enter the Department of Motor Vehicles. This entity wants to know our height, weight, and the color of our hair and eyes. They also take terrible photos so the State Patrol officers can laugh at the license photo while handing out a speeding ticket. I haven’t recently received a speeding ticket of late, but the license photo is eye-rolling laughable. And since the DMV’s license renewal is every eight years, I’ve been stuck with this atrocity for six years.

How often do you hand out your Social Security number to banks and credit card companies? It’s another way to identify a person, but it’s also a number that has affected almost 9 million Americans every year in the form of identity theft. It’s a subject that merits a separate, ongoing essay about self-protection. I’ve known people who have experienced identity theft and it’s not something they would wish on anyone. When we grow into conscious, thinking adults with our own sense of self and financial portfolios, no one person deserves to have that taken away from them.

Labels

Kids are good at creating labels. “Twiggy” and “Jolly Green Giant” were two labels thrown upon me by classmates while growing up in a small community. Being a thin 5’9” in eighth grade was the impetus for these monikers. Most children and teenagers are labeled because their peers identify them in specific ways. He’s the smart guy. She’s the cool cheerleader. He’s klutzy. She’s a math nerd.

Who among us did not have at least one assigned label through school?

Eventually I graduated and moved to a larger community where being tall wasn’t such an oddity. I got older, heavier and less Twiggy-like. And in having a lengthy career, I’ve been given a new label as someone who “knows everything.” Perhaps, but I think it’s more a matter of everyone knows my name (a/k/a the Cheers bar).

Fingerprints, DNA

Yeah, technical stuff. Do I need to explain details?

Fingerprints, DNA, the iris and retina, the pattern of the tongue, toe prints, teeth, ears, lip prints and speech are unique to every individual on the planet.

Remember that I mentioned my mom’s gait and dad’s voice? Totally unique to them. Dad used to make my cousin cry when she was little. He would pick her up and start talking, and she would go off. Dad had a somewhat booming voice and cousin most likely identified him as “that loud scary guy.”

Emotional and Social Identity

Are you the angry neighbor or the withering wallflower? The no-nonsense mom or the sensitive man? The Republican or Democrat? The religious zealot or calm, faithful follower? The introvert who prefers to be alone or the extrovert who prefers social gatherings? Do you stress out over minor details or take charge of the situation?

Who exactly are you?

Be careful with the answer because what you see in yourself is not always how others identify you. I found this to be true several years ago when a co-worker pronounced that I was a perfectionist and a bit obsessive/compulsive. “Nuh-uh,” I said to myself while carefully straightening out all of the paper in the twenty-some mail slots at work because the messiness drove me to distraction. Yes, I was a bit O/C and tried to be perfect in daily work. Remember, I was the organized gold color of years past!

In the present, I’ve let some of that go because it’s simply too tiring. My emotional and social identity has undergone change in the last ten years. Friends might say I am a happier person, my religious faith is stronger, and I’m a little less wired. Or perhaps they identify me in a totally different manner that would surprise the hell out of me. Perhaps I need to start asking.

What did I miss?

There are a million ways we can identify ourselves and others. I know I’ve missed some, but this is an essay, not a book.

So, I ask,

“How do you identify yourself? Is there something I missed in the way you identify others?”


Dear Readers, I’m currently engaged in an online creative writing course through a local library. This post has been my incursion into assignment #4: “Go into your purse, wallet or that spot in your house or office here you keep stuff that really has no other place. Take three items out and place them on the table in front of you. Choose one item to write about. Write an essay to educate, inform and entertain.”

There was more to this assignment, but you’ve read enough. I was supposed to let this sit a day and then edit it down to 500 words, except my computer decided to complete a 24 hour update that didn’t let me finish the essay in a timely manner. I have sh*t to do, people, and I’ll be out of town a few days this week, so you have to suffer the consequences of this novella.

Hope you enjoyed and I will be sharing other assignments over the next two weeks as deemed appropriate and printable.

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13 responses to Identity: What Did I Miss?

  1. I’m glad it was for a writing class because I was thinking maybe you were stressed out by retirement. 🙂 When I was younger, I was probably what they’d call a shrinking violet. I grew out of that many years ago, I’m organized to a fault, and somewhat of a perfectionist myself. I also have to be busy. I don’t know what that’s about, but if I have a choice in working or resting, I take work. 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Nope, not stressed about retiremen as much as I am over work. It’s shaping up to be a crazy one, so I’m glad to have the writing assignment. I can let go of perfect and be creatively imperfect. I’m with you, too. I like to be busy with something.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    There is so much to each of us that can’t be categorized or accounted for. This was a great post, Mary. I think you went over and above the requirements of that assignment, but I’m glad you did. I enjoyed reading this, very much.

    I’ve taken a lot of those tests, but never that one. As you point out, we change over time. And, as much as I don’t miss going to DMV, I wish I could get a new picture.

    I hope you get your technology back in order.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you so much, Dan, and at least I know I’m not in the same boat with the license photo.

      Funny thing about the computer. I was writing this posting and all of a sudden, my keyboard was not typing letters. So, I saved and closed out of my work and did a restart. The screen went black and nothing. I tried turning it on several times yesterday to no avail and again this morning before church, after which I stopped at UBreakIfix. The young man plugged it in and turned it on. How embarrassing. He said it was doing an update and my computer just took an extra long time. Thank God that was it because I certainly didn’t want to spend $$$ on a new laptop.

      • Dan Antion says:

        I’m glad it was a temporary thing. I can’t count the times people have called us to fix a problem that goes away as soon as we arrive.

  3. This is a post contains so many ruminations–questions we all ask ourselves from time to time. Some answers change, others remain the same. My journal is filled with writings just such as this, but not as beautifully expressed.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Damyanti, I identify you as a kind-hearted, caring soul who loves to write. And someone who I need to thank for her encouraging words. Thank you. 🙂

  4. Really interesting piece, Mary. My, we are a truckload of identity really, aren’t we? I’m not going to attempt to answer your question because the whole self-identity thing has been a decades-long minefield for me.
    BTW, you may have swapped the Harley for a bicycle but it’s an ORANGE bicycle, you daredevil, you. 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      LOL, tis true about the orange bicycle. I should have been daredeviling on it yesterday, but…work. Then there’s the SNOW that’s coming in a day or two. Part of my identity surely is eskimo. 😏

      As for you, young lady, I identify you as this cool Australian chick who has a heart as big as the ocean and loves family and bling. I know, there’s more, but I’m starting with the basics.

  5. Shelley says:

    I didn’t take that particular test, but another one where Gold was my color. I just knew we connected on a colorful level, Mary! 😉 Great and thorough job on the writing assignment. I’m in the discovery of who I am now that the nest is empty. I imagine you’re discovering something like it, but obviously different, now that your mom is gone. Happy Spring-ter to you – hope your side of the state stays snow free!

  6. joey says:

    So many components. I love attaching multiple labels to people, and find that they’re virtually endless, but labeling isn’t usually like that — it’s usually very definitive/black and white and unflattering. It’s almost like you need a lot of labels to get unlabeled. I do not know if that made sense.
    As a kid, I wanted to have fun, to be free, to use my imagination and stay busy. Somewhere in there I got a bit distracted by trying to do right and be good and it made me all heavy and fretful. Let me just say, not being me made me sick. Being the only parent through years of my husband’s absence made me sicker. I feel I have been on the return to myself for the last 8-9 years.
    I don’t know the test you took, but in Hue are You, I’m yellow, lil bit a white. Everything that has color, I’m always yellow. It’s also my favorite color, my mother says before I knew names for color, I preferred yellow.
    Mary, loving, fun-loving, sun-loving, sharp, dedicated, dependable, generous, compassionate, kind, loyal, adventurous, brave, thoughtful, admirable in her faith.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Yellow is a great color, Joey. Not so much on the walls, but in the sunshine and flowers and dresses and pretty paintings. Bright and cheery. I do see this as your color because you always seem bright and cheery, even when you’re frazzled.
      Joey is an amazing mom and better half of the Mister; sassy, smart, colorful, willing to work hard and play hard and spend the day doing nothing; awesome blogger and both passionate and compassionate.

      Are those enough labels for you? I’m glad that you are getting the Joey mojo back because I’d hate to think you could be anyone but you.

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