12.7.18 - "Feel Free To Be"
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk about identity.
How do we understand ourselves? How do we differentiate ourselves from those around us? Who are we to the rest of the world? Are there immutable parts of who we are, or is everything changeable?
Once again, I’m not here to give you the answers. These questions can only have answers that you wrestle with, over and over again, not answers that will stick for too long. But, if you’ll allow me, I’ll give you my two cents.
I’ve always been of a more scientific mind with regards to identity. Like a biologist, or a botanist, or a Pokémon collector, I find that classification is a good place to start. Look at yourself like you would a new animal or plant. What categories of classification will you use? Are you flora or fauna, mammal or reptile, canine or feline, calico or tabby?
What are the different ways that you can identify yourself?
The way I see it, the two grandest ways I have for identifying myself are between my inherent traits and my learned/chosen traits. Now, some of these differentiations are rather easy. For example: I was born gay. I was born an Italian/German American. I was born a Wisconsinite. I was born male. These are inherent traits. I love coffee. I am a story-teller. I am now thin. I am an atheist. These are learned/chosen traits.
But, some of these differentiations can get a bit sticky when it comes to identity. For instance, some people feel like the sex they were born into isn’t a trait they feel represents them. Some people try their hardest to deny where they were born (I can think of several reasons why someone would want to do this). Some people want to change inherent traits…and the really fascinating thing is that they can. You don’t have to accept any inherent trait any more than you have to accept a trait that is learned or chosen. That is an amazing thing about identity: no one gets to choose who you are for you.
So, after you’ve broken down your traits into the inherent and learned/chosen categories, the next step is classifying your learned/chosen traits. I found these traits fall into several categories: religion/beliefs, morality, gender, and activities/interests. Every question that you have for yourself can be placed within at least one of these categories.
Should I wear my jeans or my skirt today? Well, what does your gender expression have to say about it?
Should I give money to this homeless man? Well, do you feel morally obligated to do so?
What extra curricular classes should I take? Well, what activities bring you the most joy/what interests you?
Granted, sometimes these difficult questions will fall into more than one category. Sometimes someone’s religious and gender identities are at odds, or their moral identity doesn’t seem to match up with the activities they’re participating in. But if you listen to your feelings, and take a good look at any situation logically, I am confident that you will find the right answer.
Plus you can always ask your guncle what he thinks is best. I won’t tell you what to do, but I will gladly debate a topic until you feel confident in the best course of action.
In the end, that’s what identity boils down to: what do you think is the best course of action. Not what someone else is telling you is the best course, or what a system has given you as the best course, but what you feel and reason to be the best for you. As long as you don’t intentionally hurt other people with your decisions, you should feel free to be yourself.
So, sweet babe, who do you think you are?