When I went off to college I had no idea what I wanted to major in, so I just started talking some classes and I ended up really enjoying my Intro to Psychology course and my Intro to Anthropology and I ended up with a major and minor in those subjects, upon graduation. I don’t have a ton of memories of actual classes (they eventually all sort of blended together) but one that I do have a distinct memory of was when I learned about our sense of self, and how we identify ourselves . One of the theories of social psychology is that we identify ourselves as a combination of “different selves.” For example I consider myself to be: a sister, wife, daughter, step-daughter, dog owner and photographer.
There are two interesting things about these selves. One is that people who have a larger group of selves have been found to handle stress better. Even when one part of their identity is challenged they can fall back on the other “selves. The other interesting thing is that often people exhibit different characteristics when they are embodied in each self. I know this to be true from my own life. At my rehearsal dinner my mother gave a speech about how up through middle school I was super shy – she said I was a bit of a wallflower – but since high school I had grown into one loudest flowers she has seen – so watch out, Kevin.
And I was shy, until I started rowing. My first month of high school I went out for the local rowing club and rowed for the next 5 years. I loved it and I was pretty good at it, by no means the best, but I did well enough. By the end of my senior year I was elected co-team captain and had an amazing group of friends. But I was still shy at my actual high school. The rowing team consisted of kids from about 10 different high schools and some of my best friends were from different schools. I always felt like I belonged in the rowing team, but I never really felt like I belonged at high school. I had a small group of friends I ate lunch with (most of the time we all sort of hid out from the “popular kids” together) but my “real friends” were the ones I rowed with. I had always been “the shy student” and that continued through high school, but in rowing I was a stronger more vocal version of myself. I laughed very much out loud at rowing and was once told that the men’s coxswain, Katie, told her boat that “No, that is not a seagull dying, that is just Jesse laughing.” (I have a loud laugh, I get it!). But everyday I oscillated between these two selves, “the shy student” and “the self confidant rower” – parents take note and enroll your kids in sports! When I went off to college, where I rowed my first year, being that “self confidant” person took over and I the shy person went away (mostly, whenever I am unsure of what I am doing that shy part of myself returns and I clam up). I was in a new environment at University though, and could re-identity myself. And I did. A few months ago was my 10 year (ack!) high school reunion and the thought of going back made me think of that shy person I used to be and I really had no desire to go to the reunion. I have a feeling I would have reverted back to that shy person during the reunion.
Okay, this is turning into the longest post I have ever written, so I will try to wrap it up here. I have been thinking about “who I am” a bit lately and I started thinking about how exactly I identify myself and thinking about who I used to want to be when I grew up. So! Today is the first instalment of a mini-series of self portraits that let me embody who I once wanted to be – however briefly, who I want to be in the future and who I feel I am today.
The first one is:
Specifically a raft guide. I come from a line of “river rats” and came very close to becoming one myself, but the first chance I had at it was interrupted by a knee operation that had me laid up all summer. When I was a kid, instead of going car camping I went “raft camping.” It was some of the happiest times in my childhood and I still love the smell of a river at dusk. I have always been a tiny bit jealous of my cousins who worked at boaters (my cousin Alison is on a 6 week trip on the Green River as I write, and my cousin, Gillian, met her husband while working as a raft guide). Thankfully my cousins still raft and I am able to join them on boating trips. The idea of being a “river rat” was very appealing to the teenage/early twenties version of me, because life on the river is carefree but still of adventure. That, and being on a river gives you access to some amazing nature.
Okay I think that’s it! Phew, I feel like a wrote an essay (with a weak ending).
How do you identify yourself?