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Answering The Call

Who am I, really? And what is my identity?

By Hope MartinPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read
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This challenge... Identity. It has such an open prompt to write and man, that can be dangerous for some of us. Diving into the thought process of who we are can be complicated. Because really... what is your identity? Is it your name? Is it your beliefs and core lifestyle? Is it who you fight to be? We look at other human beings every day, and we introduce ourselves to each other simply by our name. And that name is who we now associate other human beings out there.

But it's not so simple. Your identity isn't just... your name. And yet we as humans in our day-to-day never take the time to realize that that bank teller has a story other than a name tag and she's works at the bank. And that teenage cashier at that big corporation grocery chain isn't just a neighborhood kid who does okay and school and is a good girl because she has a job.

Our coworkers, our friends, the fast food drive-thru worker, that homeless man under the bridge... they are more than what you see them as... just a someone right there at that moment. We will never have the wonderous ability to know every person's identity because an identity goes back to who they are, how they were raised, what they believe, and how they live their life. We will never get the pleasure to fully realize how many protagonists and antagonists exist in every single person's story, or learn those people's stories.

Just what is my identity.

It's not my name, because most of my true friends don't even call me by my given name. Most of the collective call me Hope, but a lot of them have their own specific name for me. And I feel perfectly comfortable in my skin responding to all the names given to me, because I feel as if I am all of those names.

My lifestyle.. if that's my identity I guess I could feel somewhat satisfied with that. My whole life revolves around my children and taking care of my family. My mother is my hero and I dread the day I have to figure out who to call when she's gone if there's something that I don't know. And as of now, I am actually a happy person. My life is full of love and laughter. My drama is minimal and I am perfectly content being the home-making business owner.

But, I don't feel as if that is all of my identity. And to explain my identity would be to tell my story. And even though I am only 33 years old, that is a LOT to tell, because let me tell you I have been to some places, met some people, and experienced some... oh man there's just a lot of experience. I'll just leave it at that.

I have grown from an innocent child to a traumatized young adult, to a survivor, to all of these things plus a mother. So what is identity? Who am I?

Identity isn't based on race either, but culture and heritage is a strong influence on identity. Looking into my own identity, when I read the challenge prompt, I literally thought to myself:

"Just who am I? Even I don't know." And I'll be honest, that made me uncomfortable. My identity? I don't even know what I would consider my identity. I pondered what makes identity an identity, and then I remembered something from a few years ago.

My grandmother had told my mom that she was part Italian and Apache Indian. When my aunt got a DNA test done, even though they had different fathers, it was proven that my grandmother didn't have a trace of Native American blood in her. Nor did she have a drop of Italian.

My mother had spent her whole life believing she was Italian and Apache Indian. She knew she had Cherokee in her from her father (he was part of the Cherokee tribe and registered in North Carolina so we know that much is true). But when Mom found out she was lost. She had been so proud of the heritage she had grown up believing. She had learned how to cook real Italian food (some from Grandma who actually did live in Italy for a while), and studied Apache history. She told EVERYONE she ever had a conversation with for more than 5 minutes her blood inheritance.

She was proud. And then she was devasted and lost when she found out it was a lie. She was crying, sobbing, looking up at me lost.

"Everything is a lie. Everything is gone. I told you and your siblings your whole life you were part Italian and Apache. I told everyone I've ever known. And if that isn't the truth, if I'm not Apache, if I'm not Italian... I'm just fake. I'm fake."

My mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly after this conversation, and she sank further. She can't sing and dance anymore. She can't stand up to cook anymore. She has dementia-like onsets where she will forget major chunks of time for a while. And she had also lost her heritage. Mom fell into a depression.

I had thought about it long and hard. I honestly had felt crushed too. I had also grown up to be very proud of what I thought was my heritage. I wasn't part Italian and Apache anymore when I had been that all of my life. And I also felt a sense of displacement. A sense of loss of self.

In the end, after a long hard conversation with God and myself... I came to a conclusion and I shared it with my mom:

"It doesn't matter if we have Apache blood or not. We know we're Cherokee from Grandpa. We are Native Americans, and the Natives, from what I have learned, mostly considered themselves and all other Natives one people, under the sky. It's why some nations call themselves the Sky People.

And, let's remember, there was war among the tribes but mostly Natives just wanted to live in peace and harmony with each other and the earth. And that is the life that we strive to live. I don't need to have specific blood to feel that I am still a proud Indigenous descendant. And Mama, you don't have to be Italian to make the best cannoli in East Tennessee. The fact of the matter is, you cook like an Italian, and you feed people like one. And that's good enough for me and everyone else who eats your food.

We don't need validation to be proud of who we are. And we don't need to explain ourselves to anyone. We are we. And that's all anyone really needs us to be."

I don't know if this makes me identity-less... having such a vague notion of identity. But I don't have a word to identify me. There is so much to me that it can't be done in just one word unless the word is simply: Me. And I am okay with that.

ChildhoodSecretsHumanity
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About the Creator

Hope Martin

I am a published author of a book called Memoirs of the In-Between. Currently, I am doing a rewrite of it, as it needed some polishing to be better. I am a mom, a cook, a homesteader, and a second-generation shaman.

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  • Mother Combs3 months ago

    Love this. Thanks for sharing with us.

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