A post by bitterbabe has really gotten me thinking hard about identity, and what it means to be a woman. She quotes a book that I haven’t read describing 3 types of women. First, those that knew they wanted children from a very young age (traditional). Second, those that basically assumed it would happen someday, but pursued other interests closer to their identities in the meantime (translational). And third, those who knew that they didn’t want children, and pursued life accordingly (transformative).
This little description is turning out to be life-changing for me. Identity. I’ve considered my “loss” of the future I had hoped for in many different ways – Sometimes as a product of my childhood experiences, a leftover from my mother’s relationship with me. Sometimes, as a fault of feminism, which allows women too much choice without a regard for biology. Sometimes, a fault of the men, who only want younger women. And often a failure of my own to recognize how important it was for me to settle down in my 20s.
But this viewpoint is different. It lacks blame. Identity is like a hat we wear in this lifetime. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and the Buddha’s teachings talk about this a lot. Whether you are a banker or a farmer, there is an essence of your humanity that is the same, and the career or lens you see your life through is an attachment. Your identity is something that you can hope to see for what it is – a cloak in this current life.
To frame my suffering as a conflict of identity has freed me from some of the blame of the previous arguments. I *identified* myself as a traveler, a scientist, an engineer, a reader, a poet in my 20s. I never identified with my job, although I did try to change to more closely match my love of the outdoors. I hoped to have a career that matched my lifestyle.
What I didn’t realize, is that all that time I also identified myself as a future mother. In fact, this base identity seems to be way stronger than I thought. It was the ultimate identity, while the engineer and friend and sailor were all temporary cloaks that were worn while waiting. I have never tried too hard at my jobs, and I always felt like a failure. Why? I think the answer is that I always assumed that my real project would be later.
So the real question is – barring biology (which is strong at the moment) – is motherhood the identity I really associate the most strongly with? I don’t think so.
My first reaction, after some thought, was that of emptiness. That I would like to not identify at all. And second, that I would hope to really for the first time put my heart into the academic and environmental causes that I’ve been following half-heartedly for so long.