“Identity is never singular but is multiply constructed across intersecting and antagonistic discourse, practices, and positions” ~ Stuart Hall
This week I stood in a room full of strong, passionate, intelligent, and supportive women. I and others were asked to introduce and tell a bit about ourselves. Introductions started with my name is, I work at, I am a wife and a mother of….. Honestly, I froze and had no idea what to say.
As I transition into the second half of my life, I find my identity shifting in different ways. Who am I as I enter into what I have termed the “legacy phase” of my life? I started to reflect on those identities assigned to us: girl, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, aunt, Canadian, Caucasian, and those we acquire throughout our lives wife, mother, educator, leader, traveler, activist, advocate. My struggle as I stood in the middle of the room at that moment was that I did not know how to identify myself without a job title.
I am currently in a state of limbo. I am working. I am not monetizing my work in research, writing, creating, and presenting. These tasks fill my days, and when I am in a creative flow, I can work 6–8-hour days focused on a job. When asked to introduce myself, I feel myself apologizing, struggling, and without answers. Who am I, and what am I doing? Can I say I am writing when what I have written is not yet being put out into the world? Can I consider myself an academic when I have no formal role in academia but spend a lot of time reading, researching, and learning? Am I still a leader even though I do not hold a formal leadership position?
My identity has shifted significantly over the last five to seven years. I am still a mother but do not have the responsibilities of day-to-day mothering as both my children are starting their own lives. My partner travels for his work and can be gone for weeks at a time. My parents and family live several hours away, and we see each other less than when I lived in Ontario. I went from living and working internationally to relocating to the United States. I completed an Educational Doctorate and became a published author. My time, energy, and focus are almost entirely in my control. Yet, I still struggle to discover, understand and accept precisely who I am at this moment in time.
I love and appreciate the freedom I have to explore, create, grow and learn. I recognize it is a privilege. I see the value in the struggle, discomfort, questioning, and uncertainty and acknowledge the gift of time to examine and align values, possibilities, and personal and professional growth opportunities. I embrace the idea of antagonistic discourse and the opportunity for learning it provides. But, still, I question.
I recently finished “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May. She says, “wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.” The stillness, unpredictability, and darkness that wintering brings are challenging me. Still, I am trying to embrace this time of wintering, hoping that it will reveal more truth, insight, and wisdom about who I am and what I am still to become.
What do you do when your identity is shifting?
Why do we assign labels, judgments, and categories for ourselves and others?
Have you wintered, and what wisdom did you gain from experience?
What are you yet to become?