My identity crisis occurred when going to an internship filled me with the same sense of trepidation as getting an operation. I was not sure I could do it anymore, and to be honest I would have rather thrown myself in front of a bus. I ignored that what I was doing was not for me because this internship was what I always thought and had been told, would be perfect. But the job opportunity wasn’t for the person I am, it was for who I wanted to be.
I was confused because this was something that I had always wanted. I assumed that by now I would have figured this out, and after five years of figuring, I suddenly realize I’m completely lost. Wasn’t this what I went to college for in the first place? To question and figure out my identity?
We all try on various identities, experimenting with different people and recreational activities until we learn who we are while growing into a permanent identity. But after five years of this, I am suddenly struck with the idea that I have less of a clue what my identity is than when I was in the process of figuring it out, and maybe my initial thoughts were B.S.
Maybe this idea of identity and perception can be applied to most people, and if not, I’m taking license to apply it. We all seek out where we hope to belong, and in order to fit in, we must prove that we are a certain person by projecting our perceptions of ourselves onto others. But when we finally outgrow that identity, realize that it was a phase or the result of one particular recreational activity or another, we are back at square one trying to convince our friends we are still that same person. Or, we’re faced with the task of trying to carve out another place for ourselves.
Having a recognizable, established identity or belonging to a particular sub-group of people is like having answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ stapled to your forehead. People can gather who you are just by taking a look and they don’t have to expend the energy to talk to you. You let them decide to approach you merely by being, and they get to define you.
But this sort of identity can be a trap. Suddenly, when you decide that you need to do something different in order to fulfill your life, you lose what you have struggled to gain. In my case, I lost one direction in life and had one of my typical meltdowns: I decided that I want to live on the beach and work in a grocery store.
As far as an identity becoming a trap, it can consume your life and make you afraid to break free of it, as there is a certain comfort in familiarity. This seems to have happened to a friend of mine. Upon graduating college, she got a job that reflected who she was at that time. A mere seven months later, she realizes that the job defines her as a person and she has no room to grow out of it.
She demonstrates this by crying in her office bathroom, when she can make it there before breaking into tears. If not, she pulls her hair in front of her face and sobs while sending e-mails. Also, she has taken a rather immodest liking to Jose Quervo.
So, what is the point of creating our personas? Do we do it for ourselves, or to make it easier for other people to gather information about us without our actually speaking up about it? If this is the case, it can almost be considered a mask of our true selves. The identity is so important that we are almost forced to adhere to a set of codes to uphold who we are. It gets boring when you are a representative of yourself. This has made me reevaluate where I wanted to take my life, and so I begin the process all over again: I’m going to grad school.
Meredith Lindemon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.