What Do Identity Politics Mean When You Don’t Have An Identity?

maskI had a friend in college who told me that statistically I didn’t exist. And maybe I don’t.

He said it because as an American I’m a bit of an anomaly. But the truth of his off-hand comment has lingered with me for years. Beyond the demographic categories I can’t escape, I’ve tried identities on for size—with varying degrees of accuracy.

But let me go back.

My childhood doesn’t fit me. The child I was is incongruent with how I see myself now. I know I lived through grade school, through college, through job after job after job. Through labels—grounds crew, barista, teaching assistant, cashier, first grader, freshman, senior, summa cum laude, employee of the month, girlfriend, single.

But was I any of those things? Was I an archivist? A graduate student? A partner? A mentor?  Continue reading

On Turning 30

Today is my 30th birthday.

I remember when 30 sounded old. Frankly, it still sounds old.

Sometimes I think about the child I was, and I wonder if it was actually me. I wonder if there’s any continuity between that person and this person. I wonder if she’d be disappointed in me.

Most children want to be something when they grow up, it seems. It’s something we emphasize early on. You are identified by a profession, by a marriage, by being a parent. What do you do? Are you married? Do you have kids?

Paleontologist Barbie

Apparently this is a thing.

When I was 6, I essentially wanted to be Carl Sagan (although I don’t think I knew who that was). When I was 8, I wanted to be a paleontologist. Those were passing fancies, and the truth is, I never had a clear idea of what I wanted out of life. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about getting married or having kids.

I just assumed I’d have a job, any job, and that maybe I’d get married. But it was never anything substantial. There’s that famous John Lennon quote: “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” I don’t think I even thought about being happy. To this day, it’s not a word I understand.

But then, I don’t think I understand life either.

Continue reading