I've thought about the Identity Challenge for a while now, and it stands out for me in two ways:
1) It's definitely a challenge for me. The concept of “identity” can be interpreted in different ways, and I have some thoughts about the current social norm.
2) It's timely. The prompt asks you to “Explore a moment in your life where you grappled with your concept of identity.” For me, that time is right now.
I'll start with that first part, since it's part of what truly defines “me.” I'm probably going to offend some readers at the outset, but I hope you'll read the entire explanation. Here goes:
We live in interesting times. You can be pretty much anything you want to be today, simply by saying, “I identify as...” What's more, it's become a habit to lead with that information.
“My preferred pronouns are...”
“I'm a proud [insert color, sexual orientation, etc.] [writer, etc]...”
THIS DOES NOT OFFEND ME. Let me make that clear. It does sadden me to think that our history of singling out and often persecuting so many groups of humans for being “different,” has led to a point that being recognized as part of the whole means shouting from the platform of those differences.
If you think about that, it's self-defeating. Nevertheless, it's where we are. And I get it. The struggle is real and it's far from behind us. I only hope that we can find common ground before we lose sight of the one thing we have in common: our humanity.
And that, my friends, is the basis of what I “identify as.” Borrowing very lightly from Dr. Tyson again, I am a sackful of stardust, trying to learn to be a good human being.
Now, that doesn't mean I don't have both inborn and learned traits, just like any of you that generously spend time reading this. I do, and they are important, as are yours. But which of those traits matter most? Because, it's not those traits in the first set of brackets up there that matter to me when I interact with you. Especially since many – if not all of them, were given, rather than chosen.
Okay. Now, for those of you I haven't chased off with the first part of this, I'll move on to the second. I've had good reason to examine who I “am” recently and it's something I've touched on in a couple of stories.
Pam and I have decided to leave Texas and return to Wyoming next year. I'm excited about it, to say the least. As much as I'm looking forward to it, there's a part of me that's already hurting because of those I'll be leaving behind, not knowing when or if I will see them again. That part of me is brother, uncle and friend.
Many of you have already read about that and offered words of encouragement, which did and will continue to help. In the long run, I will be fine. But this is about why my identity weighed heavily on that decision, and the answer is, simply:
I am a husband.
I've been a husband a couple of times before, and learned some important lessons regarding what that means. And today, it means realizing that my wife, the most important person on the planet to me, has stayed by my side all these years, enduring the separation from her own loved ones, while we've been close to mine. And today, her children and grandchildren are in Wyoming. It's time she had more time with them.
So, this collection of stardust and the one who shares his existence will head home. The rest remains to be seen. Just as it should be.