Friday, April 8, 2011

Personal Identity Crisis

In 2009, I took a bold step.

I called myself a writer. Not just to myself, but to the world. I had to, because the book I'd written was being published.

It sounds silly now, but for me, it created something of a personal identity crisis.

After all, I wasn't a writer. I was an artist. That was the personal identity I was connected to. That was how I saw myself.

I'd always loved writing. I'd always written small things for journals or magazines. I'd always written letters to friends who lived far away and enjoyed the process of putting my thoughts down on paper. I'd always journaled and written poetry as well.

But I'd never actually considered myself a writer. I simply thought of myself as artist who sometimes liked to write.

Writing the book changed all of that, because in order to publish it, I had to be bold. I had to call myself a writer. I had to take a risk that my work would be rejected, which it was, many times. And then, once the book was accepted for publication and released, I had to take another chance that people would hate it. That reviewers would be brutal. But they weren't. The risk paid off, as they so often do. Now, I'm not only an artist who writes, but I'm also a writer who paints.

But it almost didn't happen. The book sat on my desk for months in a manila envelope, it's existence known to no one but me, until I could finally take that necessary leap of faith and call myself a writer.

Personal identities...they become labels of sorts, whether good or bad, that we allow to define us. Which is okay, as long as we don't allow them to limit us. I am a writer. And an artist, a mother, a teacher, a poet, a knitter, a gardener...the list goes on and on. And that's just who I am today. Ten years ago, it would have looked quite different. Ten years from now, it will look different, as well it should.

Our personal identities create our realities. They determine the lives we will lead. They tell us who we are, and who we will become. In our own minds, they remind us of what is an isn't possible in our lives. And it can take years, even lifetimes, to realize that a personal identity we've been clinging to was wrong. That maybe, just maybe, we could have done, seen, had, or became just a little more.

One of my favorite qoutes is from Thomas Merton, who stated, "The greatest human malady is to settle for too little." Why on earth would anyone settle for too little? It goes back to those twin devils that keep us from being bold: fear and control.

If we dare to dream, we have to risk. And if we risk, we might lose. And dull, predictable lives are much easier to control than exciting dynamic ones.

Is it time to shake your personal identity up just a little by adding some new words, or letting go of a few that just really aren't you anymore?

Is being 'bold' part of your personal identity label?

Is it time for it to be?

1 comment:

  1. In 2009, I was preparing to walk 1000 kilometers across Spain with just my backpack as a companion for 40 days. I was walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrimage route from the French border to a cathedral in northern Spain. I did not think of myself as a hiker, yet I was about to span 5 mountain ranges on foot, wearing a backpack. Like you, I hestitated to claim the name or title - I did not call myself a hiker or pilgrim. (But I had experience hiking in Malawi and I logged many miles hiking across the desert with my dog) I always modestly told people I was going on a long walk! I earned the right to call myself a hiker and a pilgrim...just as in earlier years I took the leap to become a Peace Corps Volunteer and an Airman and even to call myself a Survivor (breast cancer and the death of an adult child). Another title I seemed hesitant to claim: happy. I now realize that it really is important to claim our true identity (I actually learned that in Christian Science Sunday school) and claim the Truth: I am Happy and I am a strong, bold woman with a full rich life. I am proud to say I am a hiker! And just maybe, I will ad writer to my list - someday. Thanks for letting me ramble...Life is good.
    Sippin' Coffee While the Sun Rises