Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Thoughts on Identity and Meaning

When Soulforce, a LGBT rights group, visited Houghton as part of their national bus tour of colleges it caused quite a stir. Rumors flew everywhere, the VP of Student Life once again looked demonic, and the conservative Christian bubble of Houghton shook like, well, a bubble. One of the most interesting reactions to this was a group of students who decided to make t-shirts. “I Have Died” declared the front, “My Identity Is In Christ” said the back in what I assume was an attempt at a punch line and what I know was a stab at the idea of homosexuality as an identity.

As many feelings as I and many others have about that particular incident that is not currently what I am writing about. That bit of Houghton history came to my mind at the end of the semester free-for-all (like take-a-penny-leave-a-penny but with whatever worldly possessions you don’t want, mostly clothes) when, after picking through a pile of discarded Houghton T-shirts I found a one of the “I Have Died shirts” and was reminded of the hullabaloo caused by the idea of “identity.”

Identity has been on my mind a lot recently. I am a writing/psychology major who lives in New York/Maine and feels more or less at home in Estonia/America and plans to jump into marriage/independent-happy-go-lucky life right after graduation. Of course I still haven’t figured out where my gaming fits into my identity either. I have an extreme problem with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Not in a literal sense, but in a I-can’t-figure-out-who-I-am sense.

This past semester I was feeling very gung-ho about psychology. I added it as a major, I got a summer internship at a psychiatric hospital, and I even looked at a few grad schools. I had never even dreamed of grad school before last semester. I can’t wait to get out of school, why would I want to go pay for even more? Yet this past semester I imagined myself in a future as a psychologist or counselor, wielding the gestalt method in one hand and cognitive behavioral in the other, mightily knocking down the problems of the world and bringing peace to my clients.

Yet as I look towards my internship (beginning next Wednesday) I am terrified and I feel unprepared and, worst of all, uncalled. This past semester there were days when I was convinced I had found my calling as a mental healer. Now that I have some room to breathe and think away from the excitement of my counseling and psychotherapy class and to just write I seem to be having second thoughts. To just write.

That is my problem. This is only day three of my commitment to write every night and already I am questioning my entire identity. The problem is that I had always pictured myself as more of the starving artist, freelance writer, long-haired eccentric type of person after I graduate. Now that I have some time to focus on my own writing and read some great writers just for fun (David Foster Wallace is my current idol) I find myself wanting that dream back. Yeah, yeah, helping people is all well and good but I’m just not sure I’m up to it. Also, I’m not sure I’m willing to do something that…normal.

Then I am also faced with the eternal question: Am I a gamer? For years I have considered myself a moderately intense gamer. I love video games. I love the gameplay, I love the challenge, I love the story telling of the medium, and I love the random button mashing. I love being a gamer. I love the community, I love the history, I just love it all. But I also love writing. I’m just not sure I have time in my day to write, read exciting and influencing authors such as David Foster Wallace, and play video games. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us, says writing, swaggering through the main street of my soul (which is obviously a Western gold rush town) holding a Smith and Wesson loaded with five authors I aspire to be like and one chamber promising me I might someday join them. Oh yeah, drawls video games, his CG Smith and Wesson an example of some of the more beautiful graphics showing up in the game industry as of late, we’ll see who wins this here shoot out, then. To this day I am still perplexed by where gaming fits into my life.

So here I sit, Consider the Lobster and Brief interviews with Hideous Men in one hand and Mass Effect and Combat Arms in the other. Pondering.

I am also feeling extremely split this summer because this is the first summer since I left home that I have not gone home to my family only to help them move. 2009 I helped them move to Narva. 2010 I helped them move to America, Bangor specifically. 2011 we’re still in Bangor. We have a home. Some might say I have a home. I don’t really know what to do with this. After spending the past three years living in Houghton, New York I don’t really know where I belong. This is especially disconcerting when Jenny and I talk about our future and where we will move when we graduate. Honestly, at the moment, I don’t know. I can’t return to a hometown and get my dream job. I don’t have a hometown or a dream job. The sense of in-between-ness is getting tiresome, I’ve dealt with it enough in my life. When you add in the fact that the United States, let alone the continent of North America, are not the only options the confusion becomes a little overwhelming.

The biggest split in my life was pointed out to me today by a bean bag chair that turns into a bed. I had seen this awesome looking deal ( through StumbleUpon and was completely in love with it. My image of myself after I graduate is that of a writer in a grubby apartment trying to survive off of seldom sold short stories and live enough to finish a memoir. This picture of me would listen to NPR religiously and revel in the city culture of whatever city I was in. This future would include long hair, unshaven chin, and sleeping on bed that during the day I sit on as a bean bag chair. Obviously this idea of myself lives alone.

Problem. I’m engaged. I’m currently at my fiancĂ©’s house. I just came down from her room where I read her a children’s book we got at the library today, A Dignity of Dragons. Why is that a problem? Doesn’t anybody who knows Jenny know that she would love to be a wild, good-for-nothing artist, culture-reveler just as much as me? The problem is not Jenny by any stretch of the imagination, the problem is me.

Wife=Need to be supported
Children=Need to be supported
Marriage=Requiring equality and fellowship, not lone eccentric writer

When I look at the future I see my dreams begin to fade as I see that my future will involve supporting a wonderful wife and family, I see that costing money, and I see that I can’t make that money off of seldom published short stories. The life of a starving artist is all well and good, but add in a family and it becomes the life of a neglectful husband and father with a starving family.

Damn you, oh cursed responsibility and reality!

Here I am, schizoid and uncertain of what the future might hold. Where will my writing take me, if anywhere? What am I called to be? And worst, can I fit my dream-self in with my wife and my money-requiring reality, and should I?

Join Chris next time as he mulls over unanswerable questions again…and again…and again…and….same bat time, same bat channel.

Until next time, I hope you have a less split up life than I do.

Yours truly,

1 comment:

LizzieGirl said...

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11)