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Identity, Identity, Oh Where Are You?

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Let’s say we become Mr. Prince and Mrs. Cinderella. We have beautiful babies and live in that gorgeous white house with picket fences. Say we have a nice family van. I stay home and Mr. Prince goes to work or maybe I have a great career—that allows me to stay home with the kids. And we have a nice dog and, of course, wonderful neighbors. Would that be all we need? Would we arrive at the pinnacle of success then? What society calls, “the good life” or otherwise known as—The American Dream.

We North Americans work so hard for all our lives. We strive to make it to this invisible peek of success measured by our society. We put ourselves into debt to arrive. We spend our lives in school to arrive. We work all our lives at dead-end jobs to arrive. We do everything in our powers to make a mark on society so we could be considered “unique” only we have no idea that in the end, what we will achieve are these conventional stereotypes—the “status quos” of our society. This is the deceptive truths and although I’m writing about it, I will somehow fall into the trap. Often it is not solely because we desire this lifestyle of conformity; rather it’s because society implicitly pressured you and I to go after it. How so? When all my friends that I grew up with are married with children, and I (a thirty-year-old single girl) am somehow without a partner living in a lonely apartment, I will unconsciously begin to question myself, “What’s wrong with me? Am I ugly, fat, or flat out was made to be a nun?” This is how I will succumb to the stereotype, which leads me to suddenly find myself a man to marry—like everybody else.

When everyone is graduating and going off to college/university, you start to wonder is this the norm? Am I abnormal for not even knowing what I want to do with my own life? Can I not just live and do nothing? The dilemma is that the moment we step back to think about what we want for ourselves, we hear society whispering or often shouting from behind, “What’s wrong with you?” “Can’t you be like your friends?” “Everyone else is going to university, why aren’t you?” Now, I’m curious, how can we think with all this noise? How can we ever figure out the puzzle of our own lives, fates, destinies—if by choosing differently, we are labeled as rebels, abnormal, stupid, lost, insane—the list goes on. Why can’t we get credit for not knowing or for taking the “odd” path? Why is society so keen on us walking on the same road? Isn’t that so uninteresting? Where is the excitement in being like everybody else? We all grow up in houses with picket fences, we all wear pretty pink dresses, go to private schools, graduate, and go off to universities and colleges, become lawyers or doctors, get married, buy our own white picket fence house, have two children, die. Will this really be my destiny as I write this?

As I revealed earlier, we don’t often realize that we are conforming to society’s norms. When we finally come to this painful realization, that we are not what we set out to be in the first place (donkey years ago now)—that we are only in the same boat as everyone else, living the conventional lifestyle—we have to ask ourselves, is this it? Is this what I worked my butt off for? Then, the toughest question of all filters through us—why am I not happy? After thirty, forty, forty-five years we now see that all we’ve been doing with this special gift of life, is just being like the Jones’. I may as well call myself Mrs. Jones, for as far as we know, Mrs. Cinderella did live her life happily ever after. So what do we do from here? We can’t undo the past, so there is no use looking back on these wasted years. They are not exactly wasted, but the truth is, you lost your identities in the process—and now you have to recover it.

Deceived we have been, but not battered or torn. There is one thing missing in our life’s puzzle—that is, ourselves. In all this struggle of living up to expectation, how much of this was really me? Did I actually want to be married? Am I happy with this man? What about my kids? Do I really love them? Can I grow to love them? Do I love my work/career? And my big house—do I like it? Can I even afford it? What about that Escalade in the garage—could I do with something smaller? I think if we figure out the answers to these questions and then find out what it is we’d rather have or do, then we might discover ourselves in the muck that we created. Life isn’t difficult, some may say, but society’s expectations certainly cause us to lose ourselves. And we don’t often recover it until we are half dead—what a shame.


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