I tried to update my Instagram bio recently and didn’t know what to write. It’s hardly a new problem. Twitter, Facebook, Tinder, the LinkedIn profile I glanced at once – I’m never really sure what to say, how to describe myself. Even coming up with the two-line description at the end of this article took longer than I’d like to admit.
I don’t remember struggling like this in high school. On university applications and resumés, I could easily sum myself up in 50 words or less. I was enrolled in classes, part of sports teams and a co-founder of clubs that reflected my interests. I wrote and ran in my spare time. I belonged.
For most of my life, I tied my identity to being an athlete and then a journalist. I recently realized that I'm no longer really either of those things. I still talk about my time as a sports reporter, and the words “I played six sports in high school” seem to tumble out of my mouth whenever I meet someone. I have fond memories of those times, but those parts of me mostly exist in the past.
Around my 25th birthday, I joked that I was in the midst of a quarter-century crisis. While my situation isn’t anywhere near that dire, I struggle to define myself, and I’m not the only one in this position.
Many people in their twenties are in constant states of flux. Whether an individual leaves university, starts graduate school, enters a committed relationship, becomes a parent, travels, buys property, takes up new hobbies or switches careers, one thing remains the same: all these actions involve transitions.
I’ve settled into my career and a cozy little apartment. I’m happily married. Those parts of my life are tangible. I have the contract, lease agreement and marriage certificate as proof. My trouble is finding the words to describe the parts of myself that others can’t necessarily see.
Toni Morrison once told an interviewer that she only referred to herself as a “teacher who writes” or an “editor who writes” and didn’t call herself a “writer” until she’d already written and published her first few books. I, similarly, only seem to talk about myself as something once I’ve held a job or been involved in an activity for a while. I often look to qualifications, recognition and reassurance from others when it comes to defining myself, when I should probably look inward.
Outside of the office and my relationships, who am I? Most of the time, I’m perfectly happy with myself, but I don’t always know how to articulate why. My identity is still shifting, and I’m not sure I’ll ever arrive at a point of stasis. But honestly, I’m not sure I want to.
Within the next few years, I plan to immigrate to the United States. When that happens, I’ll (at least partially) shed another important part of my identity. While I’ll retain my Canadian citizenship, this will mark the first time I’ll live outside of Canada. And since I likely won’t be able to work immediately upon my arrival, I’ll lose some of my independence, too.
But no matter where I live or my employment status, I’m still me. Someday, I might be able to share what that means.
Danielle Doiron is a writer, editor and marketer based in Winnipeg. She can’t eat wheat right now, so if you have any killer gluten-free recipes, send ’em over.