Showed up at the airport for the first time since the beginning of the year, and understandably received exclamations of “Where have you been?!” “Haven’t seen you in awhile!” “You been busy?” from friends at our first potluck of the season.
|One of my favorite identities: Hopeful gardener. I usually perform Haphazard gardener though.
Image by Wanda Bowers. Used with permission.
Busy is a bit of an understatement. Since January, I’ve been heads-down, teaching three classes, keeping up with my research job, actually doing my own research for once, job hunting. All of my hobbies have gone by the wayside. No flying. Barely any blogging. Certainly no gardening or gym time. Until this week, the last complete day off I remember was mid-February. And that’s a lament, not a humble-brag.
This week, as I groveled to my flying instructor who probably thought I died, and penned a few posts, and spent a few hours in the garden, I got to thinking about identity–How we describe ourselves and what we perform everyday.
People often talk about identity as something relatively fixed and stable, and that there is a “true” self in there somewhere. Since grad school, I’ve thought about identity as more of a performance, something we do and re-do constantly. For instance, I often perform “good wife” by being thoughtful and helpful and loving to T, but I rarely perform “good housekeeper,” because cleaning, yuck. But sometimes I do. And I usually perform “crappy car owner,” rarely washing or maintaining (sorry Corolla-mobile), but since buying the ZHP, I routinely perform “hand wash and waxer.” (Miracles!)
|A few of my favorite identities: Wife, dog mom, pilot, auntie/sister, gardener, life saver. Note you don’t see the ones I’m not proud of… There are no images for procrastinator, emotional eater, or occasional bitch monster!
I’ve written in my scholarly work about how thinking of identity as a performance enables people freedom to test out new personas (remember that time I was going to be a painter? HA!), reframe activities they don’t necessarily like (it’s not that I like cleaning up after the dog, but I’m a good dog owner) and if they make mistakes, conceptualize missteps as something that they did, not something they are (I’m not a bad person. I’m just a bad lawn mower. Thank gawd hoses are cheap).
For my months of busy-ness, I’ve carried around such immense guilt about not being the selves I say I am/want to be. Can I still call myself a student pilot if I never fly or study? Can I still be a gardener when my photinias are 10-feet tall? Are bloggers who don’t blog still bloggers?
But not being one to embrace guilt trips, especially from myself, I’ve started to concentrate on the seasonal nature of life. And I’m thinking about identity like I do work/life balance–namely that I don’t try to balance all the things, all at the same time. There’s no way I can be a great teacher and researcher and gardener and pilot and blogger all at once. Not enough hours in the day for someone who also likes to binge Netflix with her husband and get eight hours of sleep.
So I’ve reminded myself that there are seasons to certain activities and associated activities. When the semester is crazy (like now), it’s okay if I’m slow at writing or research. I’ll catch up in the summer. And ditto for gardening and flying. And I can still be who I want to be, because I say so, dammit.
I may just need reminding now and again.
Other links you might like:
- The four seasons of ethnography: A creation-centered ontology for ethnography by Amira De la
- Fracturing the real-self/fake-self dichotomy: Moving toward “crystallized” organizational
discourses and identities by Sarah Tracy and Angela Trethewey
- Ideal selves as resources for the situated practice of identity by Stacy Wieland