It Turns Out to Be A Case of Mistaken Identity! August 23, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

A conversation-starter as another incredible week draws to a close... Let's talk about intentionally shedding one or more of aspects of identity: the what, the why, the how, and the results vis-a-vis your state of mind. Did some part of your identity become a burden, perhaps an affiliation with a social/religious group or just being The One Who Loves Pigs And So Will Be Given Porcine Porcelain Forever? Did you discover unacceptable limitations associated with an aspect of your identity, like never being able to do or say [x] because it conflicted with that persona? Was it easy or hard to let go? Did you decide to recast your vocation as an avocation (or vice versa)? Or tell us about how you came to re-home your hobby gear. Was it part of finding true purpose, living authentically, embracing growing up, removing a source of guilt, or simply moving on? Did the shedding happen as a consequence of other identities you chose intentionally, like becoming a parent? Did your identity shift gears, perhaps because you decided to be a maker and creator of [x] instead of a consumer and aficionado of it? Did you affirmatively let something go, put it on a shelf or let it drift away? Are you at peace with it? And how did it go if you chose to announce your decision, e.g., the equivalent of, "I don't collect pigs anymore," to your friends and family?

If you've read this far, the mosaic of your identity may encompass being a MeFite... so be kind to yourself and your fellow MeFites!
posted by carmicha to MetaFilter-Related at 7:32 AM (30 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I don't remember when it happened but at some point I realized I had to let go of being The Good Girl. I was always trying to please everyone, especially my narcissistic father (we all know how well that generally goes), and I was dying inside. It probably happened by degrees instead of all in one go, but I do know that once I made the shift my life became considerably better. I still care about people, I'm still a Good Person (or at least I try to be, and I think that counts for something), but I cannot spend my life trying to make everyone happy at all times. I think I made the shift early enough in my daughter's life that she's now become a person who is incredibly kind and big-hearted and empathetic but who also knows how to draw boundaries and put herself first when she needs to. Those are lessons I didn't learn until I was well into my 30s.

Also, probably at the same time, I became the black sheep of my family-of-origin and quite honestly, it's a badge I wear with honor these days. I have my chosen family who accepts me and loves me the way I am, while my family-of-origin often wants me to change who I am to fit in. No thanks.
posted by cooker girl at 7:46 AM on August 23 [17 favorites]


I went to art school. Well: I started undergrad at a university and majored in art history my 2nd year; at the end of that year I made the decision to transfer to art school on the grounds that making art was more valuable and purer than simply talking and writing about art. So then I went to art school for 2 years. I learned a lot and made a lot of stuff, some of it even good. My senior year I spent in a kind of spiraling panic about what came next, I was operating in such a weird space. It might have been depression? I had trouble prioritizing school over sex, relationships, and head games (drugs were a factor.)

After school there was this period of drifting in which I lived in various places and tried to figure out how making art made sense in the day-to-day. It was hard. I made some things I like, still. But I didn't have a dedicated studio space, had never really developed a solid practice in any one material discipline, and was still living in a kind of whirl of panic and bad choices.

Maybe 2 years after finishing school, maybe a bit longer, I found myself letting go of the need to be An Artist.

It was tough, to give it up. But I reasoned that making bad art, when I could just as well not, was not useful and got in the way of real artists, people who couldn't do anything else (going to art school was a good chance to meet some people like that.) And I have come back around to doing art history, and I think I'm more generous to myself in recognizing that, hey, making art is not inherently better than talking about art - if you're better at looking and thinking and writing and researching than you are at painting or casting bronze or getting a high polish on your holloware, then you are better off doing that instead.

Thank fuck I'm better at relationships these days too. My early 20s are not a place I want to return to.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:16 AM on August 23 [10 favorites]


The easy answer would be gender, but now after some years i'm picking it back up and figuring out what to do with it.

I think my real answer would be I've been letting go of the unrealistic ideas of me and people around me of what a smart person is over the last eight years. I think a lot has just been growing up and getting real-world experience over being a teenager with teenage thoughts. But I've had to do a lot of work to accept myself, mental illness and disability and trauma and community college dropout and simultaneous love of academia and all, while letting go of the idea that there's some ambitious ideal self I'm meant to be. It involved a lot of guilt and shame and secretiveness but now it's very freeing! I can call myself stupid and do whatever I want and whatever makes me happy (including getting deep in the weeds on intellectual topics IF i make accomodations for myself), which I couldn't have even begun to figure out before.

It is very important to me now that people accept when I call myself stupid as a shorthand, genuinely, because I need them to understand that even if I look like A Smart Person, I have very real cognitive limitations that have very real effects on me. My ex revealing (casually, with good intentions) after the breakup that, after four years, he didn't believe me about these limitations made me very grateful to no longer be in that relationship.
posted by gaybobbie at 8:38 AM on August 23 [10 favorites]


This is pretty low stakes, but several years ago I was teaching a class at some small university and the class happened to have one older (like 60 or so) student in it and the rest were like 19 or whatever. Anyway the older lady was always buttering me up and buying me little snacks and coffees and things. This was just before the laws changed in Korea regarding gift giving to teachers, but it was all small stuff anyway so no big deal.

Anyway one day she brought me a hot dog from NY Hot Dog. It was in a box, and before I opened it I remarked that I loved hot dogs, because I do. It was just an off the cuff remark, but apparently she took it to heart.

From that class forward, she got me a NY Hot Dog every class period, twice a week for the rest of the semester. This would have been great for me, except that when I opened up the container the hot dog was slathered in whipped cream and was like one of the grossest things I have ever eaten.

Rather than rock the boat, I ate two whipped cream covered hot dogs a week for like two months until the semester finished. Whoops.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:45 AM on August 23 [26 favorites]


Do sock puppets count?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:47 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Ok I looked it up because I'm sure people wouldn't believe there was whipped cream on a hot dog. However, about halfway down the page you can see the White Snowing Hot Dog. Yeah.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:49 AM on August 23 [9 favorites]


Oh man. All of the hot dogs on that page look amazing, except for the White Snowing Hot Dog.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 9:01 AM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Lawn Beaver it is so interesting you posted that, as I came in to say I was talked out of art school and this year, at 50, after decades of wasted time (got a couple English degrees - and loads of debt - but could not figure out a job path for decades-mostly ended up in accounting), and more recently, finally, painting a lot (while working as an office manager).

I am bad at painting right now, because (practically) nobody is good at it without doing a hell of a lot of it. I do have many years of sporadic drawing practice, so I am starting with a fair amount of effort under my belt, but a long way to go. I will never study with masters and there are so many years I can't get back, but I have found some local artists to work with and I do believe practice is the most important thing. I have decided this is a Thing I Will Do. Sometimes deciding is one of the hardest parts.

Art history is incredibly valuable, Lawn Beaver! But not a career path for me. I have to take responsibility for all the years I thought so much about it but didn't actually do much. Still carrying an enormous weight of self-doubt! But time marches on and I may as well try.
posted by Glinn at 9:19 AM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Pretty sure a lot of my "I'm not like other girls" adolescence stemmed from anxiety over being mistaken for other Asian girls in my classes and thus doubling down on "white" interests and less-typically-feminine things to try to emphasize my idiosyncrasy. (To this day I still get mistaken for Asian colleagues of totally different ages and appearances, which happens frequently enough that I'm kind of used to it, but not so frequently enough that I have a script ready for politely correcting someone that they're thinking of my colleague who moved away several years ago and isn't even of the same Asian descent as I am, so then I spend at least half an hour trying to figure out a diplomatic way to express that and balancing the various factors that need balancing to maintain a good professional interaction.)

I'm happy to say that my twenties has involved recognizing and intentionally shedding the internalized misogyny involved with my conceptions of not being like "the other girls," and that I've generally been able to get over myself and forge some really great friendships with other Asian women (and other women in general) that my younger self would have dismissed outright as being too typically feminine and traditionally family-minded to relate to, who have enriched my life with their experiences and perspectives and, idk, individual awesomeness that I wouldn't have gotten to know had I still been blinkered by my previous notions.
posted by rather be jorting at 9:22 AM on August 23 [16 favorites]


I am in this odd position where I chose to leave the US and move to Europe to embrace a new role as Active Grandma (with the enthusiastic consent of my kid). I am still growing in that role but had not anticipated that my kid would do what kids often do by moving away to go to college and taking her husband and children with her.

While I am thrilled and proud of my kid for getting into college (for her own sake; as long as she is both alive and voluntarily talking to me, whatever else she does is up to her), her move away last month has left me gobsmacked. Even though I had several months' warning, I feel adrift. Like I no longer have a purpose, and I kind of don't.

On Sunday I'll be going for another visit, for 8 days, and I am looking forward to it very much. That said, the 6-hour door-to-door trip (one way, by train) sucks. Despite that, I have no plans to leave the only city where I know anyone to act as a satellite to my kid and her family. I think it is healthy that she and her family are living on their own for the first time and that they get to develop their own lives.

Healthy and easy are often two different things. I did not choose to have this distance put between us but somehow I need to make it work. Still, I am tired of just surviving, emotionally, which is what I have been doing for years. I want to thrive, but I don't know how to do that. People I know have died; others are dying. I have the luxury of still being on the planet, for now. What should I do? Dunno. Guess this is just another fucking opportunity for growth, as the saying goes. Thank goodness for MetaFilter; I don't feel completely lost as long as I can somewhat active here. Thanks, OP, and fellow MeFites!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:30 AM on August 23 [12 favorites]


Glinn, I should say, too, that giving up on being An Artist didn't/doesn't mean giving up on making things! It just lowered the stakes for me.

I still think going to art school was a great way for me to get over the idea that art is made by other people and best consumed in museum settings. Making stuff and doing things! It's useful, good for your mind and body and soul., and can bring you further into community, which I think is great. But I was lucky enough to go in Canada, where my tuition in the mid-90s was under $2K a year, and I had some parental support, enough so that having a part time job was a way of making pocket money.

I hope you find a way to make painting a serious part of your life! Last year I made pottery, so enjoyable and so productive. I'll do it again as soon as I have the time.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:42 AM on August 23 [6 favorites]


I started playing Dungeons & Dragons when my best friend in 2nd grade's older brother introduced us to it. I was a fantasy junkie and played (almost always as DM) off an on through high school, whenever I could get a game together (though honestly by the last couple of years of high school my friend group had changed and people were into different things, plus 2nd edition had come out and seemed like a weak cash grab).

In college I tried to put aside nerdy things and become a Serious Person. I had aspirations of becoming a writer, because my brain is always spinning up ideas and characters and daydreaming situations. I finished a novel and got a lot of rejection letters. I moved to New York City and got a job in book publishing. I found writing difficult because it wasn't much fun to separate myself and work alone for so much time. I got married, became a father, finished a second (much better) book, but found I didn't have the heart and persistence to try and sell it.

Family health reasons pressed us to move and we ended up buying a yarn shop. Turns out there's a huge overlap of people who knit and crochet and nerds. I discovered the rebooted Doctor Who. I leaned back into nerdiness, which was suddenly cool instead of the object of derision and bullying. My son turned out to be a genius at math, logic, electronics. He joined an afterschool D&D club in middle school and after a couple of months he invited me to come play at the local game store.

5th edition was so close to my childhood memories except all the stupid tables had been turned into simple mechanics. It was really forward-thinking on gender. The players were welcoming and awesome. I was immediately hooked and now I've been running a weekly game for close to 4 years.

I've given up on being a writer. I'm not suited to it. Actually, one of my D&D players is a best-selling author and I would never trade jobs with him. I need an outlet for the stuff my brain puts out, and D&D is a much better fit than writing. My audience is in the room with me, collaborating with me , becoming real-life friends.

And it turns out that all along the way, I could've been playing D&D. I had friends in college and in publishing who were also past players. If I hadn't been trying to become a Serious Person I could've been having more fun than hosting wine & cheese parties.

So beware of what you shed, and know you can come back to it if it truly fits. I've been happier since I've shed the desire to be thought of as a Serious Person.
posted by rikschell at 9:53 AM on August 23 [22 favorites]


I love this question! Because yes, in so many ways. (Definitely gender, high five to everyone upthread.) I was kind of a loner and social outcast in school, and I started identifying as the Artsy One who Others Just Don't Understand. It was really helpful at the time because I had a lot of models in fiction and art to identify with and help me get through that period. But as an adult, I've realized that part of why I was a social outcast is because I struggled with social skills and I was, actually, pretty rude to people! And I'm actually not that creative or wacky or artsy; I'm pretty conventional and don't have a knack for most artistic things. To put it into 80s movie terms, I thought I was Winona Ryder's character in Beetlejuice but I was actually Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club. But this while sobering also frees me up to start working on this stuff. And to be less self-critical when I do try a creative pastime.
posted by capricorn at 11:00 AM on August 23 [11 favorites]


I moved to Seattle a year ago to work in a bigger bakery and start pastry school. Cut to a year later and I've had to give up both of those things because of health issues, and now I'm working as a dog walker and going back to school for environmental consulting.

It's definitely not what I pictured a year ago. Like, at all. But dog walking is fun, and I can do it around my schedule without some overstressed manager chewing me out for things that are out of my control. Plus I don't have to commute for over an hour! I'm unfortunately making a lot less money, and I'm not looking forward to going back to the starving student lifestyle and putting any expensive plans on hold for 2+ years. But having a more stable job in a growing industry will be worth it. It's just a big life change, I suppose.
posted by mollywas at 12:44 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


The only thing that bothers me about changing my name, gender, job, and coast of the U.S. is that my old identity will appear to completely vanish between the 2010 and 2020 census.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:31 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


I've always felt creative and bounced around all kinds of ways of expressing that, but it's only recently that I've been trying to focus on the ones that bring me and others joy, and that I'm good at. This has meant, among other things, ridding myself of MANY MANY vestiges of previous creative hobbies and other artistic pursuits. My favorite places to bring these things (and acquire more, though in smaller quantities) are creative reuse stores. Imagine if a craft store and a thrift store had a baby - bam! Creative reuse store. My favorite one that I can get to on anything like a regular basis is Art of Recycle in Ephrata, PA (near Lancaster). I've also been once to the glorious scrapheaven that is Scrap Exchange in Durham, NC, and would gleefully plan a trip back.

In the meantime, I'm preparing for a local artisan market and doing things like making prints and ordering mat/board/bag kits. Squee!
posted by booksherpa at 5:37 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I just posted something on the blue about involuntary role loss. This kind is a little nicer I suppose.

I think the two big identity crucibles I’ve cooked in were the time I quit my childhood religion and the time I switched career tracks immediately after finishing school. Those were hard years for me. It’s hard to explain why voluntary role loss is so exhausting. In both cases it felt like a three year kitchen remodel in my brain. But I wound up happy in each case (from Catholic to atheist, from psychologist to statistician).
posted by eirias at 6:30 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Here's one I haven't thought of in a really long time, but it popped into my head while I read this question, so I suppose I ought to tell it:

When I was in my early twenties, I found my way to practicing vodoun. I joined a house, had a mambo and a houngan, and became part of a lineage that went back to Haiti. I was absolutely certain I had a calling to priesthood, and to serve my community that way. It's not terribly out of character for me; I think I'm a good listener, and I liked being important. I loved belonging, and having a role, and feeling a part of something, a family of a kind.
Gradually, over a few years, I stopped feeling called to priesthood. I stopped loving my house, and was quite hurt by some things that went down. Or, maybe not hurt, but...it confirmed what my family of birth taught me, which is that I shouldn't rely on anyone else, and I am not the kind to belong or be cherished or taken care of in the ways I need most. (This is a lesson I'm still unlearning.) I stepped away, and never heard from any of the people who had become my family since.
It's very odd; I think at the time it was painful? It must have been, right? But I don't remember it clearly, maybe because I was the one to step away. I found other friends and another community, and I'm still warmly a part of it, even after living overseas, and now across the country. So perhaps it really wasn't that painful, to leave that religion. But thinking on it, I'm struck by the way I just...lost my calling. I'm a Quaker now, and dislike speaking in Meeting.
I suppose I'm still figuring out how these few years shaped my life; they can't not have, but I also don't remember them with anything other than a pretty neutral feeling.
posted by kalimac at 6:52 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


I am very ladylike. I am super sweet. I am a doormat. I am a cream puff. I have a high, soft voice. I am Southern. I am Lawful Good. These are fixed properties. I can compensate for them, but I cannot change them. Despite my degrees, despite my near-constant skin-peeling existential dread, I am still a nice lady.

I miss when that wasn't so. I miss being a bitchy teenager who wore a cape and threatened to throw hands at crap dudes. I miss being a pistol. I miss, I miss, I miss.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:18 PM on August 23 [19 favorites]


I had a realization where I didn’t want depression to become my identity. It worked.

Also, you can completely be a different person every day if you don’t like who you are. No previous feeling or choice can control how I feel and react to the world. Elana’s post right above mine is interesting cause it’s like we went completely different directions.

I’m successful and a good influence on many people, but I’m literally not trapped by anyone. Or any way I should be except wanting to be kind. I could just... walk away.

Stoicism is about living according to your nature. Not a selfish doctrine for me, quite the opposite. Though I do see many people trapped by what they feel are social obligations that would be fine to just not honor. It’s half of the human relations questions on here.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:39 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


There was that episode 55 years ago when they took me to the zoo and I watched gibbons. Imagine that stage in a kid's development when crawling, walking and talking all is done and consolidated and the next thing should come, like flying or playing the marimba or something, and you see some gibbons in action. Standing there I was totally like "this is what my life is going to be about."
Coming home I kind of remember the "what now"-look on my mom's face when I declared that I absolutely wanted to learn to climb like a monkey, but okay, we devised a training program of sorts. I recall a few days when I tried to learn grab lego blocks with my toes, dropping them more often than not, hurting myself by stepping on them, and other such things. Then I shed my monkine identity and grew up as a proper earthbound lump like all the other kids. It's a prosaic life, but I guess I broke fewer bones and things.
posted by Namlit at 12:41 AM on August 24 [5 favorites]


Also, how is it possible, I was actually going to suggest a question very similar to this as metatalk hour topic, just in order to tell this story. Weird...
posted by Namlit at 12:47 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Did you discover unacceptable limitations associated with an aspect of your identity

I was an awkward kid and people called me "spaz." I reclaimed it as a nickname in high school and it's, still to this day, the only real nickname I've ever had that stuck--had an ID bracelet with this on it, it was the middle name on my first ever passport (they asked for your name "as you wanted it to appear on the passport" and I just wrote that down and assumed they'd just use what was on my birth certificate). My first little consulting company had this in the name.

However, as I got older and knew more people especially people in other countries, I learned that this wasn't just an edgy nickname, it was a super hurtful slur-level word in other places (and in the US under the right circumstances). So, I said goodbye to the name, over time. Kept the bracelet but never wear it. Got a new passport over time. Changed the name of my business. Took down the website. Don't say the word out loud. Tell people who may still call me that to please not to.

My feelings about it are basically private. I'm really sensitive to criticism about past-me's bad decisions. I miss having a nickname but not in a way that would outweigh the soundness of the decision to not have that nickname.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:23 AM on August 24 [23 favorites]


I was laughing to myself a few weeks ago about how shocked my high school self would've been that I was drinking at a bar, hanging out with my boyfriend and another male friend, yelling about football. In the past, I basically defined myself by not doing or having any of those things, but turns out I'm still me and it's pretty good!
posted by ferret branca at 5:31 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


A friend had the Pig thing happen, but with cows.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:44 PM on August 25


Please tell me that garlic hot dog does not also have whipped cream on it.
posted by HotToddy at 6:12 PM on August 25


I have always been controlled by the fear of doing it wrong.


So I made sure to always find a way to get it "right" and avoid criticism; and actively try and avoid any attention because someone may discover a flaw or even worse discover that I did something laudable and draw attention to it. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings if I was ranked as doing something "better".... I basically wanted to exist in my fragile little bubble.

I found 100% uncontrolling pride and acceptance in the love I shared with my husband. He is the only person who I have ever felt safe with. So I gradually grew into a more open person who can reveal a few things. But I can only reveal my inner fragility to you mefites. Nobody I meet even knows I'm widowed.

And for the first time in my life, I can have a little yard and garden. It is my joy. I can play with it and change things and watch things thrive and keel over and have a place where nobody is judging. There is no competition and no single right way; there is nature and responding to the changes of the seasons and climate. Nothing is arbitrary. And everything is open to change.
posted by mightshould at 4:34 AM on August 26 [10 favorites]


I was pretty sexually repressed all throughout high school, to the point that I even dressed pretty conservatively.

Then my freshman year of college, the dude that I'd sort of started dating French kissed me while we were on a date in Central Park. It was my first such kiss.

And only twelve hours later was the first time I had sex.

During those intervening 12 hours, every time he did something new he would ask if I was cool and wanted him to stop and I was like, "what? No, that's awesome, don't stop!" I think the poor guy didn't know what hit him; he handled it incredibly, INCREDIBLY well, though and I have always been grateful.

And that is how little cloistered Catholic EC discovered that she actually had a libido the size of Sandusky, Ohio.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Things I've let go or otherwise moved on from:

1. Hustling to Sell Art: I love making art, and I realized I'm at a point where I don't care whether I make money from it. You don't have to be paid to be good and get something out of doing it. I'm over being so capitalist and monetizing what I love.

2. Being a Serious Indie Rock Aficionado: I learned a lot as a music writer and editor and the partner of a former indie rocker, but I'm a little embarrassed that I imagined myself so above the pop-punk and emo I know all the lyrics to that I even deleted my Last.fm history from the time period when I wholly embraced those genres. I'm allowed to know things about music and still like what I like. I'm over being a rock snob.

3. Being a Long-Suffering, Codependent Caregiver: I spent too much time being what I thought was a better version of myself, a long-suffering caregiver who was continually bending over backwards for people who gave little to nothing back. I certainly learned real things and changed from those experiences, but I also learned it's not an unalloyed good to become lost in that life. I'm over subsuming myself in someone else's needs.

4. Being a Musician Who Never Sings or Plays in Front of Anyone: For years, I hid that light under a bushel. With the help of much time spent singing while walking, playing tennis, driving, etc., plus collabs and conversations with MeFi Music folks, I've started to get past it. I'm over being so self-conscious, I can't enjoy the gifts I've been given.

5. Only Hanging Out With People on the Gifted Track: So many people in this world have the idea impressed upon them that if they ever fail, if they don't care about traditional Western achievement, if they're prejudged by authorities and teachers, if they have anxiety or are non-neurotypical, if they're not privileged to be involved in extracurriculars or music programs, that their only path is to be burnouts. But there are so many ways to be a deeply intelligent human that don't make you an obvious candidate for the gifted track. I'm over only hanging out with the alleged smart kids.

I trust that more of my illusions and pretenses will fall from my sight as time goes on!
posted by limeonaire at 5:22 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I gave up going by my first name. It was never me.

I gave up my dream of being in publishing because I needed some security in my life. That was hard. I was a good editor and loved the work, but it just didn't pay enough and I was told never to expect it would.

I gave up my marriage and that took years of trying not to do it before I could let go. By the time I pulled the plug, most of the worst bits had already happened.

After years of trying to find certainty I am learning to rest in uncertainty. I can't exactly embrace it, but I can learn not to demand that the universe share my priorities.
posted by emjaybee at 9:26 PM on August 30


« Older Site finance snapshot, August 2019   |   Post Your Animal Month Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments