Identity — Finding One’s True Self
Identity is something I find hard to define. As a child born of a mother whose family is from Honduras who grew up in Sacramento and a father whose family is very much descended of Germany who lived in Indiana growing up, I had a very interesting growth in my own life starting from childhood.
I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother on my mother’s side and her family, who often spoke Spanish or English with a thick accent, and were very open and welcoming in their interactions with others. I rarely saw my father’s family, however, who were very introverted and held up quite a facade of importance of image in their communing with others. As such, I grew to follow an identity very similar to the Latin culture, with trust, friendliness, and a hidden hot temper that peaked at times. Developing that, I grew to contrast in many ways with aspects of my father’s family. I felt distaste toward me from those who were quiet and formal in my presence, as my father’s family often used this as a tactic to be passive and rude with the family of my mother.
As I grew older, I began to shape my identity more on my own, separate from my upbringing. While I still felt rooted in identity from my upbringing, as time went on I became inspired and drawn to other external entities.
Among these, moving was a huge piece of it. I moved from an elite part of San Francisco, Pacific Heights, to an exclusive and wealthy realm of Marin County, Ross, going into middle school. Television and movies played a big role in molding the minds of my peers at that age. Shows like Gossip Girl and movies like Twilight taught many to yearn to be treated as adults like their parents and to have romantic relationships with others. As such, I began to get into the same.
Additionally, shows like Skins and the Secret Life of the American Teenager, along with music that glorified sex, drugs, and alcohol seemed to alter the innocent minds of many.
While I resisted these ideals throughout much of middle school, I cannot fully say I completely rejected these into my identity. Especially throughout high school, hearing about the party lives and mistakes made by those I idolized — from family members to celebrities — made me grow into my identity believing that to follow in the footsteps of those I adore meant making those same mistakes.
When I turned eighteen, however, I decided I was completely against my parents’ values and asserted my independence in my identity. Much the same as my older sister had done two years prior when she left and dropped contact, moving to Los Angeles to pursue modeling and acting. I moved to Los Angeles, attended Loyola Marymount University, and was happy to be on my own. Yet, there was something missing. By dropping the identity I had grown and developed from childhood, I found myself with no idea what my true identity was or even who I was on my own really.
So I tried, lacking guidance as I pushed it away. I went backpacking by myself a lot — in parts of Utah, along the Pacific Coast Trail, all over. Being on my own was scary but taught me how to find my own independence. I faced trauma my freshman year of college and was in the hospital, eventually made to take a medical leave of absence my second semester. As such, I chose to travel.
I went on my own to live in Hilo, Hawaii with some others in their twenties or thirties. I worked with some incredible people and heard some incredible stories, finding connections to people from all walks of life. I began to realize my identity wasn’t defined by media, television, film, music, or even my family. I came to understand my identity was defined by my own unique experiences. While influences definitely played their roles in swaying me varying directions, my upbringing especially in regard to my natural values (socially, politically, economically, et cetera), I found my identity was really what I chose to make of it.
Following Hawaii, I traveled, going to Washington and seeing a friend I lived with in Hilo, seeing Seattle, and absorbing this new setting. I then took a train out to Vancouver, Canada, where I had never set foot before. From Canada, I ventured to Juneau, Alaska, another place I had never been. I had grown up going to the fanciest hotels doing the prescheduled “tourist” activities, and having this freedom to just simply interact with others and hear their stories made me feel true connection, both with them and with myself.
Overtime, I have come to see that identity can be swayed in many ways by external things and circumstances. But, above all, self-identity is defined the way you wish it to be. It’s based off of those things that influenced you, but specifically those of things you are attracted to and choose to hold onto.