Tuesday, April 30, 2013
There are many ways to identify a person. Your place of work usually issues some sort of ID card, most folks get driver licenses, upon birth we all get a birth certificate and generally a social security card. Any time I apply for a job, I have to produce these documents to prove I am in fact who I say I am. Each of these cards is filled with a certain set of information about me. Name, address, position I hold, sometimes a picture, date of birth, height, weight, all different facts that explain in a small way who I am. I wear a bracelet with my personal information when I run, so if something happens, folks know who I am.
Each of these represent a superficial way for someone else to identify me, but none of these traits are as important as how I identify myself. There are a plethora of ways that I do so, ranging from my intellectual pursuits to my hobbies and the people I spend my time with. Sometimes life pushes us to identify ourselves with a group of people with whom we would not ordinarily be associated. This can be both bad and good. I've spent the last semester identified primarily as a student teacher to a group of high school students, which has been an interesting mix of pleasant and frustrating. Other times, folks are pigeonholed based on a single physical characteristic that misrepresents who they really are.
One of the difficult things in life is striking a balance among all of the groups and traits I identify with. Running is a stupendous stress buster and physical challenge, but if I give all my time to it, I will more than likely be injured and will lack time to pursue other interests. If I only read for pleasure, I will get to experience fantastic stories and see the world through others' eyes, but I won't learn anything that I can use to sustain my physical life. As much as I want my students to succeed, I cannot spend all my time for them, or I won't have time to personally grow and learn.
Another tricky part of leading a happy and fulfilling life is finding ways to identify myself within my comfort zone but outside complacency. I began my college career as a computer science major, but realized after two years that I would be miserable if I pursued that line of work to retirement. Inspired by teachers in my life, I switched to mathematics teaching. About a year ago, however, I began to become discouraged by the politics poisoning the atmosphere of public education. I have tremendous respect and hope for the future, because I know there are still brave souls battling on the the face of negativity, but I again realized that my current trajectory would not end in my happiness. A burgeoning love of the study of mathematics caused me to begin to research graduate schools, and after a year more of classes, mixed in with recommendation letters, statements of purpose, and one standardized test, I was accepted to Bowling Green State University graduate school for the purpose of studying mathematics. They also offered me a position as a Teaching Assistant, which will feed my satisfaction from helping others to learn, and I have accepted. Beginning July 1, I will be happy to identify as a BGSU Falcon!
And so my friends, how do you identify yourself? How do you challenge and change that identity to continue an upwards path to happiness? I know that in this human life I will never achieve complete satisfaction, but the joy is in the journey, I've heard. Let's journey on!