After last week’s confession, I attended a writers meeting and met someone who’s writing a thesis on identity. She’s earning a master’s in anthropology, and the thesis will focus on a particular ethnic group in a certain small town in this state.
We engaged in conversation about it, and then moved on to introductions around the table and to writerly discussions, but the dialogue looped back around to her thesis on a few occasions, especially after I mentioned that I had been maintaining an online presence under my pseudonym.
Although I gave reasons for choice to use that name rather than my own, she kept asking why, and commented on how others’ imposition or opinions had shaped my identity.
Here’s the thing, though: My choice of pseudonym and my reasons for using it as an umbrella ID online were all of my own volition. No one forced anything upon me. Sure, some of my reasoning was spurred by the actions of others, but the choices were mine.
It’s an idea she did not seem to comprehend. In fact, when I laughingly mentioned how people often assume my eldest niece is either my daughter or my granddaughter, she said, “See? That’s what I mean!” and then remarked that others might be surprised at what I do, because I don’t look like a writer.
After that, I stopped trying to explain about the pseudonym, because I realized something ironic that even my niece sagely verbalized later, on the way home: “She didn’t realize she was putting on you her own opinions of what you were. ‘You don’t look like a writer.’ She was doing what she said society did.”
Ain’t that just like us humans? We see what others do, but not what we do. We stand out of sight of ourselves.
It’s someone else’s fault. Someone else’s responsibility. Someone else’s flaw.
When we’re offended, we think society should change to conform to us. To make us comfortable. To prevent us from changing, growing, maturing, overcoming adversity.
The irony is, though, that the butterfly isn’t strong unless it struggles to break free of the chrysalis. If an “empathizing” soul wanders past and tears open the chrysalis so the butterfly can avoid the fight, the butterfly dies.
Regardless of whatever identity anyone tries to slap on me, however inaccurate or spot-on, I bear responsibility for who I am and who I become.