Category Archives: Identity

relating to Lenka

As sly as a fox, as strong as an ox
As fast as a hare, as brave as a bear
As free as a bird, as neat as a word
As quiet as a mouse, as big as a house

All I wanna be, all I wanna be, oh
All I wanna be is everything

As mean as a wolf, as sharp as a tooth
As deep as a bite, as dark as the night
As sweet as a song, as right as a wrong
As long as a road, as ugly as a toad

As pretty as a picture hanging from a fixture
Strong like a family, strong as I wanna be
Bright as day, as light as play
As hard as nails, as grand as a whale

All I wanna be oh, all I wanna be, oh
All I wanna be is everything
Everything at once
Everything at once, oh
Everything at once

As warm as the sun, as silly as fun
As cool as a tree, as scary as the sea
As hot as fire, cold as ice
Sweet as sugar and everything nice

As old as time, as straight as a line
As royal as a queen, as buzzed as a bee
As stealth as a tiger, smooth as a glider
Pure as a melody, pure as I wanna be

All I wanna be oh, all I wanna be, oh
All I wanna be is everything
Everything at once

These are the lyrics to Everything At Once by Lenka, and by golly does this describe how I feel right now. Last night I completed the dreams brainstorming in my happiness journal, and I noticed that I want so many things out of my life. And very few of them are linked to what I’m doing right now, but they’re also very risky and require some financial backing, which is why I am where I am. I want to open my own cafe, and I have already got some very specific thoughts on it. I know what I would call it, what the focus would be, and even have musings on the interior. One late night, I even designed the logo for it. But it’s the kind of place that would suit a location that I can’t really afford (not that I can afford any of them), and it would be very risky, since I don’t have any inkling how people would take to it. It would essentially be an oatmeal bar, though of course there would be other options. I’m thinking of calling it h(oat)e. There would be a few ‘chef’s recommendations’, such as apple pie oats, pb+banana+agave (I want the place to be vegan friendly, so no honey unless specifically requested), double chocolate, berrylicious, pumpkin pie. Then there would be the option to design your own, by picking and mixing toppings.

But see, I’m not sure that many people appreciate oats like I do. So in comes the risk, as well as the fact that starting up any small business is risky.

Another things listed in my dreams was to expand my skills in design and photography. I really enjoy them, and much in the way that people have pipe dreams of being famous singers or CEOs, I have a pipe dream of being a photojournalist. It’s certainly nice to fantasise about.

Then, of course, I eventually want the whole marriage and family thing. But I also want to spend at least 3 months in Europe, when I have a decent amount of savings, so that doing so isn’t too financially stressful. And so I can do things like go to super expensive restaurants in Paris, or stay in random luxury hotels.

There were a few other things, but they aren’t really worthy of mention, or are just extremely personal.

I just want everything. And I want to be everything.

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Wenda from Where’s Wally

That’s right, another costume party is on the agenda for me!

This time the theme is Where’s Wally, and I’m going as Wenda. Which is basically Wally, but with a skirt instead of pants. Awesome.

I purchased all my costume for cheap prices off ebay over the last few weeks, all that is remaining is to put it on and go have a great night.

Tonight’s event is one I helped organise (not that I had a major role in it, mostly it was just voting on themes) as part of the club I’m on the committee on at uni. It should be a good night; I’ve harassed a few of my friends into buying tickets and I know all the ins and outs of the event. Plus, it’s a great theme, since costumes are easy but effective and it’s hard not to get into it.

One of the most exciting aspects of the cruise, is that there will be a “real” Wally which non-committee members have to guess from a series of clues they will be given upon arrival. I know who it is, but the game adds that extra fun factor (plus a reward of several drink cards for the afterparty).

You all heard how I was hungering for a costume party where I could go all out, well just watch as that need is fulfilled!

Where's Wally?

Where’s Wally? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

an ardent admirer of antiques

English: Antiques being sold on Colaba Causeway

English: Antiques being sold on Colaba Causeway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few years, I have developed a passion for antique and vintage items, whether it be furniture, clothing or random knick knacks. I mentioned when I bought the vintage sailor dress that I love the idea of objects having a life before I encounter them, and while this is the main attraction I have to them, there is more to it. Things made in years gone just tingle my senses more. I find them to be infinitely more attractive when they’re from periods I admire. Of course, every era has its embarrassments – some of the brown and orange stripes of the 70s were pretty hideous, or the neon of the 80s. But it also had its definitive style statements – the beautiful art deco of the 1920s or the fabulous mod dresses of the 1960s. They’re so stunning that my eyes begin to water when I look at them.

Over the last year I became obsessed with a massive antique warehouse 15 minutes from my house, where I’ve forked over a good deal of money on beautiful furniture and homewares. The furniture needs a little restoration, but that’s why I’ve been getting such good deals on them. Including the couch pictured below, which needs quite a bit of restoration to the woodwork, springs and covering, but had such a lovely frame (and price) that I couldn’t resist.

Jacobean sofaJust think of what its life could have been, and now I’m bestowing the gift of regeneration on it.

Is it any wonder, after all this, that I’m thrilled to be going to a bar filled with antiques, candlelight and chaise lounges in the near future? I think not. To me, there really could not be a better bar.

 

a product of my interactions with society

Erving Goffman was a Canadian sociologist whose book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life proposed an illuminating theory on identity and the concept of the self, outlining how our day-to-day interactions are merely us performing a role, and from which we gather a sense of self. Of all the theories of selfhood I studied for a test I had today, his was certainly the one that struck me the most.

Pelican 0 14 02.1350 3

(Photo credit: scatterkeir)

Whereas some theorists (George H. Mead; Herbert Blumer) thought that it was our concept of self that influenced our behaviours and the meaning of our interactions, Goffman’s theory suggests that it is our actions that result in our sense of self. He outlines this through the metaphor of the theatre, claiming that we each act out certain roles in situations (e.g. mother, student, friend, doctor), and that in performing these characters, we get the product of the self. But the self is not the cause.

Though, he also identifies the concept of role distance, whereby a student who waitresses is not necessarily identifying as a waitress; she is maintaining a distance from that role and would still maintain the student face even in that context. So the roles become important by what we put into them, and how meaningful they are to our lives.

And this means, that we must all continually monitor our self-identity, and be watchful over the most trivial aspects of social behaviours. And we remedy any lapses with ‘response cries’ – the example used in the book I’m using for this subject (Anthony Elliot’s Concepts of the Self) uses the example of a woman walking past a door way and muttering a small “Oops!”. Saying ‘oops’ has no purpose and is not automatic, but she says it so that those around her are aware the she acknowledges her lapse and that it was only a small error, and not a sign of dysfunction.

The theory then goes on to explain constraints to self-expression, such as those in prisons and asylums, but they aren’t what really fascinates me.

I just feel like this theory really captures the way you can be so many different things at once, and how some days we really do seem to be performing mere actions of our roles, instead of doing things as we wish. You know, those days when you still follow your script when serving someone at a cafe, you make their coffee, maybe engage in some small talk. But, at that time, it just feels like only one part of who you are. Because later that day, you become the waited on.

At least, this is what I get out of the theory. I always find it hard to determine whether my thoughts on it are what was initially intended or meant when it was written.

frustrated with society’s need to label people

English: A name label. (Hello, my name is...)

English: A name label. (Hello, my name is…) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Labels are everywhere. We use stereotyping as a cognitive shortcut, and that has proved an immensely useful survival tactic over the years. You group lump edible plants into a group, and so can avoid the poison group. There are the ‘elderly’, the ‘athletic’, the ‘ill’.

But sometimes the labels become constricting. The most common example being the common coming-of-age story set in a high school. At the start, there are all the cliques, and people don’t break outside the label that they’re given. Geeks don’t talk to jocks, seniors are separate from freshmen. And everyone seems satisfied with these descriptions of people. Pick one person from any clique, and even if they’ve never spoken to them before, there’s probably a run-down of characteristics that they can give. Geeks = smart, book-loving, Sci Fi appreciating, quiet, reclusive and weak. At least according to the stereotype. But really, they are individual people who just happen to be stuck with the label, possibly based on that one time they wore a Star Wars t-shirt and the fact they have fairly good grades. That alone is enough to give them the label.

But there’s more to them. They may have a black belt, they might be making money off an eBay account, they might spend their weekends crossing activities off their bucket list. They may have a whole different persona that their label blinds you to.

Labels are also a way people can grant themselves superiority over others. This is my problem with the nerd fighter movement. It’s nerd superiority, based purely on the fact that they call themselves nerds, and value the characteristics they attach to that. This is one of many ways privilege and oppression can be expressed. And by describing yourself in one category, you automatically are putting everyone else into another – the other or the different. It’s a polarising practice.

Over the years I’ve been given many labels by many different people. And each time, I have hated it. Once you’re called something, it feels like an image you have to live up to. Or a box that you’re not allowed to break out of.

I was a major fan of Photoshop when I was 15. I would spend hours editing images and posting them on my livejournal account. I had gigabytes of textures, bases, edits and psds. And this one hobby of mine became who I was. That and my general attitude at the time. I got told that I was an introverted computer-head for a while. At the beginning I enjoyed the way it set me apart, but as time passed, I became sick of that seeming to be my whole identity.

Recently, I’ve been given a few different titles. It seems people are so keen to give them these days, and I just want to be more than what they say. I’ve gotten them from doctors, work colleagues and even myself. I’m working very hard to change the label I gave myself as ‘broken’ and ‘unfixable’, but changing the views of others is harder.

It feels like they only way to grow past the shortcut is to remove the need for one. And the only way to do that would be to show more attributes than the brief glimpse people get – make myself more than my clothing choices, more than my feelings about myself and more than just a representation of a label to people. Basically, make it so that others can see past a few characteristics of me that they decree to be defining.

I suppose that’s why I’m so desperate to get to know myself.

the girl with more problems than dollars

Everyone has their issues. Some we can accept and admit to freely, others we try our very hardest to deny.

At times we feel guilty over these problems (the usual starving children in Africa guilt trip), but really why should you feel guilty over things that you struggle with? Sure, your shopping addiction may seem trivial when a child is struggling to stay alive, but that doesn’t change how real and painful it is for you. All it does is increase the negative set of emotions you experience by adding guilt and shame to the mix.

There’s a quote from The Perks of Being A Wallflower which captures this perfectly:

“even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”

But then there are the times when you feel that your battles are all that you are. Which is kind of how I feel now – defined by the issues I struggle with daily. Right now it seems they are everywhere I turn, and I am blinded by them. It feels like my whole identity is composed of all my problems stitched together.

I know on a rational level that this isn’t true – humans are far more complex than that. We are made up of cells, hopes, dreams, literature, art, passions, love, friendships, hobbies and so much more. But at times like this when I am drowning in my sorrows, it feels like the first parts of me to surrender were the other identifying characteristics. My conversations all run around the same topics, my thoughts swoop like vultures over the carcass left behind when I’m exhausted from fighting with them. Of course, there are techniques of dealing with them which do not involve fighting or avoiding them, but sometimes they are hard to put into practise.

I speak, of course, of mindfulness. Psychology is in love with this tactic right now, and indeed we are being told that regardless of our situation we should set aside a few minutes for this exercise each day. But when your thoughts are flickering through your head so fast you can’t even grab on, how are you supposed to just let them pass you by without leaving an impact? The same ideas thud, thud, thud at the inside of my head, and, like my high school English teacher always said, repetitively “beat in the message”. You can’t get away from something that is being screamed at you over and over throughout the day.

But I suppose that is why it is so important to practise mindfulness – so you can learn to filter out the white noise of these nagging thoughts, the same way you do the chirping of the birds in the morning or the radio playing in your car.

And maybe then we won’t have to own up to all our problems to people, because they will cease to be such major dramas in our lives. Because this sure isn’t something I want to identify as.

reconciling my religious views with the celebration of Easter

Today is Easter Saturday. Not one of the major days of the Easter weekend, or at least, it’s not a public holiday, unlike Good Friday, Easter Sunday or Easter Monday. Which means for most people, it’s a fairly regular saturday, sandwiched between two important days in the Christian calendar.

But for non-Christians, Easter is a non-event. Unless, as I do, you choose to participate in the consumerist version of the holiday – a weekend long chocolate fest with the occasional fluffy bunny or chick.

I was raised in a fairly lax, but still Christian household. I attended an Anglican school, though we only had a religious service once each term and on major holidays. But somehow, the religious message never really sunk in. I emerged from these institutions as wanting to believe in something greater, but finding it difficult.

Even other religions, though they make sense, don’t really click with me. I’ve had the core tenets of Wicca explained, and while I like the ideology, the ritualism of practising and the symbolism just aren’t right for me.

I find the multiple gods of Hinduism fascinating, but still not something that I can fully believe in. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Shintoism are ones I don’t know all that much about, but what I do know serves only to stimulate my intellectual curiosity, but not any kind of belief. Perhaps this is why I am so keen to study religion from a sociological standpoint.

I have trouble actually identifying with any religion, so for a while I supposed that made me an atheist, but I didn’t see any real proof that there was no God either. So I set my Facebook to agnostic and left it at that.

But then in that conversation with my Wiccan friend, we were discussing religion and ideology in general and she said something which really stuck with me, “don’t tell me what you don’t believe in, tell me what you do believe in.” Agnosticism seemed, suddenly, a lazy explanation for my feelings on religion.

So I thought about what my beliefs really are. I suppose they come closest to secular humanism (realism), but I still don’t know if that term fits quite right. But I do appreciate how truths in science constantly change with new information and discoveries, which is appropriate in our ever-expanding world.

Perhaps consumerism is my religion, but if it is, it seems rather a sad way to be. Material goods can only get you so much.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I believe in people.

So, this Easter, I will be eating chocolate, but mostly because it is so readily available and societal tradition implies that it’s what is expected of me. I will be seeing my family today to exchange hollowed-out, ovular confectionary and I will greet people with the phrase “Happy Easter!”. But for the most part, it will just be a regular weekend, full of work, family and chores.