The term “self identity” can feel both stifling and liberating. On one hand, a sense of identity is portrayed as this innate sense of “who we are” and “who we want to become” defining our morals, character and personality. Yet, the idea of identity can also lead to a sense of “incomplete-ness” especially during transitionary periods in one’s life. Who am I if I’m not friends with the same group of friends I’ve always been friends with? Who am I if I don’t have straight A’s? Who am I when I spend my Saturday nights alone instead of with a packed social schedule? Despite the belief that it is our most personal and inward qualities that form our “sense of self”, at times, the most simple outward changes may onset a minor (or major!) identity crisis.
I went through my own mini identity crisis last spring. After breaking up with my boyfriend of 4 years (umm…hello! since my junior year of highschool), transferring schools, moving to a new city and dating a new guy (oh, hi Jeff) I felt…dizzy. At the time I didn’t realize what was going on, all I knew was I could hardly recognize myself. I had no idea what I wanted from Starbucks each morning let alone what I wanted to be as a grown up. I felt like a failure socially (see any of my long rants about not making friends at my new school), I felt like a failure academically and I felt like a failure financially (living in the city is expensive for a college student). My sense of identity was all out of whack, and to be honest, it was a little bit traumatic.
Like all good narcissists do I began attempting to further evaluate my life, but instead of from my own perspective (which can be a teeny tiny bit biased) from an outside perspective. I talked to my friends for hours&hours about my perceptions of myself (eek…Thank you!), I started writing (a lot) and most importantly I began reading my writing. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to understand your own point of view once you place it into writing? I think the same can be said for your feelings. On any given moment my thoughts are all jumbled up and messy. They are a mixture of “To Do Lists”, calculating whether or not I can afford to buy a bottle of champagne to go with dinner, daydreaming about cute new sparkly flats, overanalyzing text messages, insecurities, etc, etc. It can be hard to determine what is bothering you, and why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling.
Yet, when you spill your thoughts onto paper something amazing happens, even if it comes in the form of less than stellar writing. Suddenly, your thoughts become concrete, you can see them, you can reread them, and most importantly, you can make sense of them! Understanding bad feelings doesn’t necessarily make them go away, but it’s the first step towards relieving them. Should I become a therapist or what?
As I began to recognize my own identity crisis I also started to ponder the idea of “identity” and found a quote that really stuck with me (by one of my very favorite children’s authors nonetheless) “A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty little parcel finished and complete, a self is always becoming”. Madeline L’Engle kind of threw the conventional idea of identity out the window didn’t she?! While it is certainly frightening to recognize I’m not the same person I was a year a year ago, or will be six months from now it is also very freeing. People change, and it doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.
I used to worry because my opinions wavered and because I was indecisive. If I was practically pro-prohibition all through high school, how could I enjoy champagne so much now?! If I once wanted to be a teacher, why did the idea sound so unappealing now? The list goes on and on!Our individual likes and dislikes don’t define us, we are meant to grow, to change, and to evolve over time and if growing means admitting I didn’t always know what I wanted, or even, that what I want has changed…well, I don’t mind seeming a little wishy-washy.
And hey, on that same note, I don’t think a little identity crisis is always the worst thing either!