I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. Partly because I’m 22 and it’s practically mandatory for newly-graduated 20-somethings to question their entire life purpose. Partly because I’ve been watching the latest series of America’s Next Top Model (AKA the greatest show on earth) and they keep talking about being ‘a brand, a boss, and a business’. And partly because my ultimate blogging babe Tara wrote about whether bloggers need to be a brand, and how hers has evolved over the years.
For a while now, I’ve described myself first and foremost as a writer. Because I am. It’s literally what I get paid to do. Writing is my day job and side hustle and one and only hobby (apart from sobbing over Grey’s Anatomy and falling asleep watching Heartbeat on the sofa with my fiance.)
But the problem with rooting your identity so firmly in what you do is that when you stop, your entire sense of self is ripped out from under you.
I recently took a break from blogging and writing entirely (well, not entirely. I still turned up at my day job and wrote about PPI and life insurance and energy bills), and whilst I desperately needed the break, it was also terrifying. If I was no longer writing, who was I? What was the point of my existence?
I started thinking about all the things I am, in a desperate bid to form some kind of solid identity. This is what I’ve come up with.
I am a daughter. A sister. A fiance. A friend. I don’t form relationships with people easily, but when I do they tend to be intense. I love the people I love fiercely, with all my heart.
I am a writer – yes, even when I don’t write. Writing is what I do and what I think about constantly, even when the thought of physically writing anything fills me with fear and panic. I communicate best via the written word. I long to tell stories – my own, and others.
I am a feminist. A fighter of good fights. A supporter of the downtrodden and the oppressed. Every day, I try and learn a little more about compassion and privilege, and how to use them to lift others up.
I am a child. I sleep with cuddly toys when my fiance is away, and dance in my living room to cheesy 90s pop songs. I cry when I’m tired and stressed and hungry and demand physical affection.
I am desperate to be liked. I try to convey an air of disinterested indifference, but every social interaction is accompanied by a soundtrack of ‘Oh god I hope they like me. What if they hate me. They’re probably annoyed at me. They want me to go away.’
I am controlled. I plan meticulously and despise leaving organisation up to other people. I like order and neatness. I am not a ‘spur of the moment’ kind of person.
I am a lover of terrible television and cookery programmes. Of musicals and RomComs. Of thrillers and period dramas.
I am a wearer of lipstick – and then a taker-offer of lipstick because OH GOD IT’S TOO BRIGHT EVERYONE IS STARING AT ME AND NOW I’VE GONE AND SMUDGED IT ALL OVER MY FACE.
I am a first-class student. Literally. I have several bits of paper to prove it. For a long time, I felt shame for caring about arbitrary academic achievements, but now I will wave my First-Class Degree and 4 A-grade A Levels around with pride goddamnit. I was lucky. I was privileged. But I also worked hard.
I am in recovery from an Eating Disorder. I battle disordered thoughts around food most days. Most days now I drown them out with crisps.
I am unsure. Of myself and my identity and exactly how I want to shape my life. I am still figuring out how to be a good person and make a positive impact on this world. I’m still figuring out a lot.