Okay, you’ve put me in a box

Since I was a teenager, I’ve wrestled with the complicated truth that when you try to be different and stand out from the crowd, you invariably end up being like everybody else who wants to be different and stand out from the crowd.

A few articles I’ve stumbled across lately have reminded me of this. The first two follow a currently trendy blog style (“Don’t date …”) and a consistently popular blog style (Lists! Everybody loves lists!). The third is bizarrely off about.com but actually a pretty accurate summary of Gen Y, if I’m anything to go by.

Don't date a girl who travels
Don’t date a girl who travels
5 ways to get the most out of your 20s
5 ways to get the most out of your 20s
Characteristics of Generation Y
Characteristics of Generation Y

All three articles are spot on, and it’s a little disappointing to know I can be put in a box. And yet, the other awkward truth I’ve struggled with over the years is that whilst I want to be different, I also want to fit in. Who doesn’t? At the end of the day, figuring out your identity is about finding a place to belong – a group of people to which you can belong.

This week – more so than other weeks – I’ve been reflecting on identity. At work, I read a draft chapter on fashion and consumerism which talks a little about how the clothes and accessories we choose to wear – and where and how we choose to buy them – are part of a performance (in the theatrical sense of the word) of a role, which in turn relates to an identity we want to communicate via our fashion choices. This morning at church, I was trying (not very successfully) to explain to a young guy how being a child of God means what other people may say or do to us should not overly frustrate or hurt us because it doesn’t change our value as a person in Christ. Tonight at church, a key message from the sermon was that knowing who you are is about know whose you are.

My faith has defined my life. I can see His hand in my life as clearly as I can see through my contact lenses – but I’m not sure how many other people can see that. That is the crucial question. To a large extent, people see what they want to see and don’t see what they’d rather not see; I am as guilty of that as the next person. But whilst those around me will “define” me however they like (she’s “the Asian one” or “the one who went to Latin America” or “the one who did law”), my goal is to declare that He defines me and live so that people can’t help but see His presence in my life – however they might try to explain it away.

Here’s another bad poem to finish off this post; it’s one I wrote back in April 2012, based on a picture prompt I can no longer locate (I think it was a centaur striding across a cracked bit of desert).

quarter-life crisis

Somewhere along the blur
of your mid-twenties
the sunshine and storm of Life
cast light upon your soul,
shade your thoughts,
make clear the painful truth

that you are
the fruit of the earth you grew in, the culture you were fed;
the product of the conditions in the greenhouse that is home;
just part of the landscape.

It becomes monotonous desert to you.

Drag yourself out
of that familiar dust
in search of greener pastures,
new waters;
a paradise to call your own;

race against the sands of youth before you
get stuck in routine,
settle for mediocrity,
lose your dreams to the desert wind.

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