Friday, November 13, 2015

Extremely Brief Thoughts on Identity

The other day I was thinking of my (8% of a) job and how I define myself.  Who am I anyways?  Who will I be once I'm not tied to the baby so closely?  Who do I want to be?  How can I make this happen?

But I think I'm struggling with secondary definitions of my identity.  If someone asks me 'Who are you?' I would immediately say 'I'm a scientist.'*  Before everything else in my life, I define myself by my relationship with science.  I know exactly who I am.

Second place might be Parent. Then Jew. Gardener. Knitter.  Jam maker. Professor/teacher is somewhere way down the list after Vacuumer and Weeder.  Some day I need to think about why this is.  I don't know how all the pieces fit together (frequently, it seems, the answer is 'badly'.)

What's your answer for 'I'm a ___________'?

* Actually I am extremely literal minded and would probably give my name. 


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I too would probably give my name in response. But otherwise, it depends on the context. There is a large swathe of people out there who know me only as "Gwen's mom". I still remember how....odd it was the first time I realized I was being defined wholly in relation to someone else without any other differentiating details. I'd never been merely "so-and-so's daughter" or "Mr. Aryanhwy's wife", or even "Dr. Promotor's PhD student". So being "Gwen's mom" and NOTHING MORE was -- and still is -- weird.

    Academically, I am a logician, or *possibly* a medievalist (but only when I'm not around real medievalists). I'm definitely not a philosopher, and it's been tricky navigating this now that I'm in a philosophy department and I teach philosophy. But there are definitely times -- such as yesterday in my 3rd year logic seminar -- where I firmly pull out the logician hat and clamp it down over my ears and go "la la la I'm not listening" when students ask me questions about metaphysical necessity. I'm not a philosopher, I don't have to care about metaphysics in order to do my modal logic!

  2. I am a Scientist first as well. Then comes mother, sister, friend, cook, gardner etc. ( Also a chauffeur (just wait till your kids are older and need rides!) I think that teacher might be "part" of being an academic scientist, at least for me.

    1. You're right, I forgot Child Ferry. The endless school pick up and soccer practice and story time and......

  3. n economist.

    Seriously, that's how I approach the world. How I think about things and experience things.

  4. A woman. A Jew. A feminist. A lawyer, in a few years. A Doctor Who fan. A blog lurker. American and gay would probably show up somewhere on the list.

  5. I recently rearranged pictures in my living room and gathered together the ones in my house that really spoke to me. I have an affinity for the Renaissance style (is that what it is called? I never took Intro to Art in college.). Realistic portraits of ladies. Anyway, I looked at them gathered together and realized they're how I think of myself. Gardener. Lazy (in a good way). Reader. Wife. Mother. And in the corner, a photo from college of me blowing lycopene powder over a candle flame. It's been blowing all the visiting kids minds. "Is that you?" Yes. I wonder if I keep that picture out for the same reason my grandmother, who had six kids in rural WI, kept her grass skirt and photos from her hula dancing days in Hawaii displayed in her bedroom. That is who I was, and still am, a little bit. It's just less flashy and obvious now.

  6. Lifeisnichtsimal8:39 PM

    I actually have no fucking clue and that is disturbing to me. I hope I can figure it out in the next few years. I have a lot of labels that I feel like used to fit me but not anymore

  7. It's probably clear from my handle that "physicist" comes high up my list of "I am ..."

    Mother also now ranks high up, along with daughter, wife, sister, cousin, friend. I only find I incidentally define myself as "woman". I see myself as a person before any gender.

    But mostly, I'm not really sure any more. I spend more time mothering than I spend physicsing or sistering or reading or cooking or any of the other things I do, and my LittleBear occupies more of my brain space than most other things. But "mother" seems like a means of identifying myself only in relation to another person, and that makes me feel less of an independent human being. Which is maybe the point of being a parent. I am no longer an island.

  8. I suppose I'd answer with my profession, without context. I'm a college professor. And it's true that that's a huge part of my identify, and a source of pride. So yeah! That's what I am, though by no means all I am..

  9. I'm a mother first. It was not accidental that I chose to put my blog pseudonym in that order...and I chose this name before I had my first child. I always knew that motherhood would come first. I suppose that's why I'm struggling so much in my career now. After mom and scientist, I think my next biggest defining attribute is being an adult with ADHD. It affects so much of the way I experience the world.


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