You know, if I really think about this identity business, it occurs to me that I haven’t thought enough about it at all. My brain worries back into the past and propels forward into the future. I go back and try to recall where my identity started at the beginning of this year, or at the beginning of last year. I look ahead to where it is going. Identity is such a wisp of a thing; a shadow; an illusion. I am shaped everyday, if only slightly. The only things that are rooted at my core are my experiences so far and the lessons they have taught me. I hang onto them , hoping they will help me predict and function and cope. But even those experiences, when examined under a microscope, are filled with moving, complex bits, We are only our moment, our now. Anything can happen. (Personal journal, 2008)
Over the two decades (or so) of my career, there have been times when I have come face-to-face with myself and I could not ignore what I saw. Over the years, these moments of stopping and staring into my own heart have always invited me to discover new things hiding there. My career has been a transformative journey of change and growth. My moments of revelation have been elusive at times, because I often need to share a space with another person or find myself in a completely new situation before I can see myself. By living through these experiences and then telling and retelling (Clandinin and Connelly, 1994) these meaningful, joyful and startling “spotlight” moments, I can discover parts of myself that have changed, melted and adjusted over time. These moments have become mirrors to greater understanding of what is most important to me in my work and in my relationships. I have discovered that if I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge which can, in turn, help me to be more effective in the work I do everyday. The trick is to be willing to stop, without judgement, and examine what is resting within me.
I have learned to recognize the time to pause and reflect by first identifying a visceral response I am having – it is in moments of my greatest discomfort, unrest and insecurity that I know it is time to have a look, because it is these moments that signify that my identity is facing some changes. It continues to take a great deal of practice and fortitude, but if I can remember to take the time I need to consider the origin of my discomfort within me, I have the opportunity to reinvent myself just a little. The Buddhists call this the “in between spaces” and I remind myself to welcome them because it means I am ready to learn something.