I have always struggled with my identity.
I struggled for a single reason: because there was many multiple lives I wanted to live. My identity moratorium translated into going into college because I had too many interests and was unable to pick on one. I switched majors from Political Science to International Relations, Public Relations, Minor in Chinese, to Journalism and finally to English Education with a minor in Educational Psychology. I will be graduating in a year and the worst parts are both the denial because I wanted to be more than conform to the gender-stereotyped female role of being an English teacher and continued moratorium because after all the confusion with suffering with mental illness and struggling to form an identity, I am still worried I will graduate and find that I failed to formulate my identity at all.
I’ve struggled to gain my identity in other ways besides my questioning of what I will do in my life. I’ve struggled with political beliefs, personal preferences/skills and the questioning of what I value. I find myself straggling the political fence between Fiscal Conservatism and Social Liberalism – torn between the expectations of eradicating Global Capitalism into an equal Marxist society vs accepting the nature of hard work as well as Capitalism (i.e. the inner masculine nature that I battle with accepting, which is in conflict with my inner femininity.) I have also struggled with what I value. Do I really value English Education, or was the identity forced upon me by social coercions that were ingrained before my birth and will continue to affect my offspring (should I chose to have them) after my death?
Bruce Hood, Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol, believes that identity is an illusion. He states, “We all think we would act and behave in a certain way, but the reality is that we are often mistaken…. It is almost impossible to discuss the self without a referent in the same way that it is difficult to think about a play without any players.” In summary, Bruce believes that our identity is formulated in the process of interacting with others and that overtime our identity is solidified by how we affect and are affected by the environment. He also does not believe that identity is subject to change due to coercive social pressures, despite that we cannot wholesomely apply ourselves within the labels we ascertain to ourselves for comfort’s sake.
In her analysis of the emerging degree of Data Science in the TED talk “We’re All Data Scientists”, Rebecca Nugent is able to correlate her identity within her mother’s despite their varying differences between their careers. She demonstrates that through her mother’s ability to annotate and read her students papers, that she is able to assimilate mass of data she is familiar with and make inferences with the results. Rebecca believes that literacies can be transferrable from Math to Linguistics and back to Math, and the only problem is believing that there are not commonalities between different disciplines that can translate into new found knowledge on both sides – both mathematical brains and linguistic brains. In a sense she is right, the new emerging ideas that will change the world will be multidisciplinary. The way to bring new ideas to the table is to understand one’s true strengths in different areas, not to just believe they are only “Math” people or only “Linguistics” people and cannot combine the two.
Perhaps that is why we need to radically change our individual, social environments to be open to adaptability in humans, their ideas and what they can create. We need to not limit our peers to our own perceptions of what we want them to be but to account for the complexity of individuals in stories, therapeutic techniques and in educational pedagogies. It’s time to give up the idea that we are completely defined by what our brain thinks we are, and to account for the ways we can change and adapt to our environment. It’s important that we stay realistic because we only have a short time on this planet, but I believe that if we account for adaptability and change in the most seemingly inflexible situations then we will be able to formulate new ideas in all areas of life that will drastically improve the human condition and stretch beyond the limits of what we know now.
Perhaps then it is not good enough to think of oneself as inflexible and innate to change. Maybe the only real way we can survive in this world is not to be frustrated with what we don’t know, but to think “I can.” For now, I chose to cling onto the hope that my life, my writing and my career will evolve and adapt to new challenges and emerging desires – even in the most inflexible of situations. I chose to cling onto hope for myself, and in a world of fast-paced competition, I encourage you to also see yourself as flexible, emerging and growing.