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Identity, and what it means to me

August 26, 2013

Inspired by NicoleandMaggie who asked: “Who are you?  Are you what you do?  Are you what you think you are?  Is your identity important, and if so, how?”

I’m an engineer.  I don’t define myself by my job, but the engineering mentality is part of my identity and would be even if I no longer worked in engineering.  This is also code for things like practical and rational with an appreciation for math and problem solving.  I’m not a tinkering sort of engineer, but  I appreciate working on something that is going to be BUILT rather than a more science-y approach of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.  I hate inefficiency.  I get strange delight when I discover irrationalities in my favor, like the time when the travel size contact solution was cheaper per an ounce than the full size, or when the sampler of 4 small beers was cheaper per an ounce than a full size beer.  (These both happened on the same long weekend!  Am I the only one who thinks that is wild?!)

I’m a midwesterner, even though I may never live in the midwest again.  I have a bias in favor of all midwesterners, as they are good, friendly, sensible people.  In my circle of friends, all of the former midwesterners are punctual people.  This is IMPORTANT, it shows you respect other’s time.  They don’t lie, and they are just plain NICE.  When I go “home”, I note the culture shift and I feel so much more relaxed and… at home!  It speaks to my ties to my family, my roots, and my childhood.

That said, I’m a midwesterner who is deeply in love with  California, enough so to deprive my hypothetical children the privilege of being Midwesterners themselves.  Sorry!

I’m also a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.  It probably says something about me that I don’t mentally identify myself in relationship to those I love, but I’m not sure what.  Probably something bad / unflattering.

I’m an introvert, but this isn’t something I really identify as, it is more just a useful tool to explain my personality to others who are more extroverted.  Note:  introvert is not equivalent to shy, extroverted is not (always) equivalent to obnoxious.  In more detail, I’m (most often) an INTJ.

I’m a runner.  Sometimes this is a bigger part of my identity than others (i.e now).  Sometimes I blog, but I don’t think of myself as a blogger.  I am a lapsed PFer.  Although I’m most certainly a woman, I don’t really identify as a woman any more than I identify as… a person.  It is hard to describe.  Does anyone more eloquent understand what I mean by this?  I wonder if this is because popular culture so often presents the majority of stories (movies, books, TV) from the point of a view of a man.

Backpacking in the mountains is merely something I do, but it means so much to me that I wonder if I can somehow make it part of my identity, even when it only uses up small slivers of my life.  I have an adventurous spirit, but can I call myself an adventurer when most days I just go to work and then home?  I’m a feminist, but similar to an introvert, only as a tool to describe where I’m coming from.

My identity is important to me, and probably to those closest to me (but most important to me, clearly).  The rest of the world doesn’t care much and is satisfied by whatever labels are convenient to apply.  I’m OK with that.

What about you?  What do you consider to be key parts of your identity, and how do they differ from the things that you do, and the things that other people may label you with?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2013 9:12 pm

    Haha, I laughed out loud when I read that you learned that sample size beers and your travel contact solution were a better deal. My mind does not think like that, but I appreciate others who do think like that. I think my identity is defined by what I do and not what I say or think I do… Most people would describe me as an extrovert, nice (maybe too nice), friendly, athletic, funny, organized…It’s funny how when I think of my identity I first think how others view me but maybe not necessarily how I view myself. I wonder if a lot of how we identity comes from how people see us.

    • August 31, 2013 10:48 am

      That’s interesting. I think for some people it may, but I’m guessing introverts are more likely to get our identity from how we see ourselves. I’m friendly and nice and organized, but to me those are just personality traits to me, not really part of my identity.

  2. August 26, 2013 11:59 pm

    I have a really strong sense of national pride and I also very specifically identify as being from my hometown, as well as leaving it. I don’t have a sense of being home like you do when you go back to the midwest, but I do really identify as being from there. I think this is fading somewhat as time distances me from university, but I also really identify with the university that I went to in a way that I’ve self-identified with few other things in my life. It was a really defining life experience for me. I also fairly well identify with where I live now and have no plans or ideas to ever leave this area.

    Like you, I really identify as an engineer. It’s just such a great explanation of my personality. I am usually an INTJ by the Myers Briggs test, but I don’t identify as an introvert.

    I also really identify with one of the sports I play. I’ve been playing for almost 20 years now, which is pretty long considering that I’m only 25. It’s just been such a huge part of my life forever.

    I don’t really identify as a feminist, even though I am one, which is probably why I refused to call myself one for a long time. I don’t identify as a homeowner. I don’t identify as a woman though I definitely have felt more and more like one as I’ve gotten older.

    So I guess the key parts of my identity are that I’m an engineer from X city, went to Y university, and acquired Z degree. Other people probably label me by my job title, the company I work at, the fact that I own my condo, that I’m a grown-up.

    • August 31, 2013 10:50 am

      Do people pay a lot of attention to the fact that you own your condo? Maybe it is more of an anomaly at your younger age. I know which of my coworkers bought early, but it is only a blip on the radar, and I am much more likely to label them by their job/company and their personality and the presence the have (professional? fun? sporty?)

      I don’t know how other people label me. Probably as an engineer, so at least I agree with them on that. 🙂

      • August 31, 2013 4:24 pm

        Now over a year in, it’s probably less of a thing than it was at first. It just feels like an apartment that I never have to move out of.

        People mostly remember that I own my place when they’re griping about how much their rent increases are. For example, my boyfriend spends about $150 more per month than I do (mortgage, HOA dues, property taxes) on rent for a place that is about 60% of the size of my place though his building is newer. (So if my place was 1,000 sqft, his is 600 sqft – mine is bigger than that though.) I have quite a few friends who are spending over $2,000/month on rent now for 1 bedroom places and my monthly cost is closer to $1,550/month…

        • September 2, 2013 8:51 am

          Yeah, makes sense! I’m half-dreading the idea of owning a home, but I imagine when we are ready, we will be very excited.

  3. August 27, 2013 7:47 am

    You sound just like us except for the running part. 🙂 (And we’re not engineers, but we are our own disciplines.)

    • August 31, 2013 10:51 am

      That must be why I like your blog so much 🙂

      (also for the academia insights to understand my husband’s universe a little. Also for the sane parenting that one of you seems to practice. A nice balance to the medias portrayal of parenthood.)

  4. August 28, 2013 7:41 am

    The best part and most important thing is you know who you are. There are so many people who can’t answer that question. Kudos!

    • August 31, 2013 10:52 am

      Perk of being an introvert: lots of navel grazing and thinking about who you are 🙂

  5. August 29, 2013 8:47 am

    I definitely define myself by my introversion – it’s such a huge part of who I am (also shy).

    I define myself by my love of words – reading and writing.

    I love food, though I don’t know if that really counts as part of my identity.

    I think I also definitely identify as a Kiwi – I do love NZ for all the things I dislike about it and I am very proud to be a New Zealander.


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