Who am I? Who am I, when life changes? Who am I when the situations change? Identity seems to be an ever changing fight to understand what I mean in this cross section of history, biography, and social framework. What is our identity anchored to and does it persist over time and situation, or does it change, adapt, and transform? My identity is deeply linked to my mental health and when I struggle to find who I am in a context, my experiences with anxiety and depression are amplified.
This year has seen me go from working stiff to full time student and with that my place in this society has changed dramatically. My life was one of struggling to survive in a dead end job that brought me no meaning. It consisted of attempting to mine pride out of working hard at a job that I did not want to be doing. My identity was that of struggle, or merely surviving for the sake of living. Now take that away and throw me into a life of academia. Put me in first year classes with people more than half my age. Who am I in this strange, exotic context? I have no damn clue. I don’t know who I am anymore and maybe I never did. Maybe that’s the meaning behind this whole mess. I’m not sure if I’ve ever discovered who I am. Most of my adult life I’ve had to concentrate on survival and have not gotten in touch with what my building blocks are.
I have wrestled with meaning and the question of why a lot lately. Why all this struggle? Why all of this noise? Why do we work so hard just to die one day? I’m sure these are questions that we’ve all fought with in our lives, correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve fallen into an existential crisis as I lack an identity in this new experience. The most difficult aspect is that I don’t know where to go from here? In my textbook The Promise of Sociology there’s this idea that higher education is the in between point of an “intellectual wasteland” and “the inevitable dreary professional training that awaits” (Beamish, 2016). Not the most positive of descriptions, but an important idea. This opportunity I have to go to university is an opportunity to discover who I am and where I fit.
Life changes challenge our meaning and purpose. They encourage us to grow in our life and identity. Sometimes that old identity is not ideal, but it is comfortable and familiar so a change (even for the better) brings resistance. A big part of all of this is to recognize that and feel that fear and wrestle with it a while. Allow those hard questions to beat you down for a bit. Lay there bleeding on the ground and really evaluate where you are. Get up. Grow. Love yourself enough to build that character and resilience. Don’t recoil in fear, embrace the battle with open arms. It’s through this that we manufacture who we are. It’s through this that we find our meaning.