Maybe it came from reading too many Enid Blyton school stories as a child, but I spent a large portion of my pre-teen and adolescent years worrying that I hadn't found 'my thing'. Each of the girls at Malory Towers had a special talent or trait for which they were known and which marked them out as distinctive and special. As far as I could see, I didn't have one of those at all. I longed to be 'the musical genius' or 'the beautiful one', and every year before the school year began, I'd make list after list of the traits I'd adopt and the way I would be this year. Time after time, I'd fail to become the two-dimensional character I longed to be, as my own human, multifaceted self could not be suppressed. Part of the problem of course, was that I had so many 'things'. I was musical, I was academic, I was energetic, I was sociable, I was a clown... And I could never decide which one I wanted to be the most. I had to pick one didn't I? Teen magazines were constantly encouraging us to pigeonhole ourselves with flow-charts and quizzes. What 'type' of girl are you?
Looking back, I am saddened to remember the anguish I put myself through as I tried to puzzle out what 'my thing' could be, and as I'd punish myself for failing to fit into whatever arbitrary category I'd chosen to strive for each time. What saddens me even more though, is that I am still prone to this way of thinking, even now as an adult. There are so many things I still want to be, even though the adult world appears to be the ever-narrowing of fields and the closing of doors. Even within the blogging world, we're told to choose a niche for ourselves if we want any chance of becoming successful. Are you a beauty blogger? Are you a fashion blogger? Are you a food blogger? Do you travel enough to really call yourself a travel blogger?
I've become really interested in how we form our identities, during the process of trying to accept myself as a three dimensional individual. Identity is so heavily attached to the idea of 'belonging', and we draw near to those who like what we like, and who do what we do, our identities like magnets. I like to hang out with people who have similar political ideologies as me, and I love the feeling when I meet someone who has read my favourite book or enjoyed my favourite song. It's important to bond with people who are similar to us, but of course there are dangers attached to marking others out as 'different'. Especially if there is a value judgement attached to that assumption.
"Be yourself" is a common thing that adults say to teenagers and young people. While I see what the phrase is trying to say, I have always found it to be vastly naive and incredibly damaging. How on earth can a teenage girl be expected to 'be herself' when she's expected to be so many things all at once, and she doesn't even really know who/what "herself" is? "Be yourself" sounds so absolute, so concrete... as though "yourself" is a fixed concept that can be distilled, put into a glass vial and held up to the light. I wholeheartedly reject that concept, although I am its victim as much as anyone else.
So before this post becomes any more of an essay of existential nonsense, here's a list. If you can figure out who I "am", then do let me know, because I'm almost a quarter of a century old, and I haven't figured it out yet! I'm all of these... I'm none of these... I'm so much more than any of these...
A writer - a diarist - a musician - a feminist - creative - nostalgic - contemplative - anxious - energetic - lethargic - melancholy - vulgar - a redhead - short sighted - fair-skinned - a digital native - a blogger - a wife - a cat-lover - a woman - a Cambridge University graduate - an ex-teacher - shorter than average - green-eyed - half-Australian - an older sister - a tea-drinker - accident prone - self-doubting - magical - an individual with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome - comedic - sociable - a foodie - whimsical - sensible - sensitive - a daughter - a travel obsessive...
So those were just a few of my thoughts. Normal posting shall resume during the week - there's a twee-as-hell banana loaf recipe coming up, so don't worry, guys. I've not completely lost it. Yet.