Who are you? How do you decide who you are? Is it what you do for a living? Is it how you are known in the community? Is it because you have famous parents? What determines how you see yourself?
For a long time I was known as the daughter of 2 very famous and influential local teachers. People were always coming up to me and saying how my mum taught them in junior high and they could still recite some obscure interesting bit of trivia because of her or how my dad was so influential in helping them see the world as more global than local. I enjoyed that because I had the privilege of having both my parents as me teachers (junior high and college respectively) and I agree, they were two of the best damn teachers I ever had. I became a teacher because of them. I loved being known as a teacher.
I had majored in drama and so was well known throughout my town as someone who had been in lots of plays. I liked having a high profile and having people stop me and say how much they enjoyed my performance. I met one of my dearest friends that way--the elderly wife of an ancient professor--and we wrote many letters to each other about our favourite poems and the meaning of life. I liked being known as an actress.
When I got married I decided to keep my family name as I did not want others to not recognise me as Spidergrrl, actress and daughter of famous teachers. I liked being who I was and changing my name seemed wrong somehow like I would be losing a bit of myself. Sometimes I wish we could present a more united front with the same last name as it might make it easier and people would stop assuming we weren't actually married, but Spiderman says we don't need the same name to unite us. All we need is a &. I adore being known as a wife.
When I quit teaching after my break down from grief and stress following the death of my beloved father, I often felt I had lost my identity. I could no longer say I was a teacher and the painful memory of being the daughter of a teacher who would never be able to influence a new generation of people was almost unbearable.
Today I know who I am. I am that funny dressed woman who works in a school. All sorts of people know me as my clothes are fairly distinctive. I am approached fairly regularly by strangers who want to ask me questions about myself or ask if I will pray for them. And while I have chosen to be a teaching assistant here in the UK I still feel like a teacher. Because what is a teacher? Someone who makes a difference in the lives of children. Someone who listens and cares when no one else seems to. Someone who helps you become a better human being--through education or citizenship. I do all those things and more. What I don't do is paperwork, fill in forms, measure growth by unrealistic expectations. I just love and help and make it better.
As many of you know, we are making a quick trip back to the US soon to visit family who are unwell. After purchasing our plane tickets we discovered that having dual citizenship meant we needed dual passports. Joy. I never felt strongly about being an American, but I feel proud and honoured to be British. But my identity is both, inextricably twined together. So we've been rushing around trying to secure British passports. It has been a roller coaster of a time as my application was originally rejected due to me wearing a head covering in the photo. After sending a letter explaining that I do wear a head covering for religious reasons my application was approved and we were onto the next step. So I guess that is another part of my identity--I am a Quaker and religious woman who prays on her knees twice a day.
Yesterday we had our "Identity Interview" which all first time applicants must go through. It is a rigorous 30 minute session where you are asked lots of questions about your background that supposedly only you would know. It was really scary as several things I was not completely sure of but tried to be honest and say what I could. And if you can't trust a Quaker, who can you trust? I won't reveal any questions because then you'll know how to steal my identity! But we both think it went well and hope to receive British passports soon.
But having to defend my identity made me think--who am I really?
A dramatic actress
Who are you?