Monday, 29 July 2013

My evolving identity

I wear a lot of hats. Metaphorical, not literal, of course. I’ve got a slightly weird head shape that doesn’t suit anything more than a beanie so you’re unlikely to see me stomping the streets of London in a cloche, beret or panama any time soon. I’m going to Australia in 3 months and already feeling anxious about how I’m going to protect my scalp in the baking heat without looking like a total tourist.

What I mean is that I play many roles in the story of my life. I’m a digital producer, a blogger and a writer (are they the same thing? I tend to separate them in my head.) I’m a student, an (ex-) volunteer and charity supporter. I’m a daughter, a sister and a girlfriend. I’m a consumer, an influencer and a 30 Day Shred championess (official title).

All of these different bits of me make up my identity. I am the sum of these parts (and many, many more). This is who I am. I love that I am a person who is many varied things. There are bits that I am super proud of, the bits I can brag about that make me feel like a great person. There are bits I am mildly embarrassed about, the parts of my identity that are made up of eating Ben & Jerry’s in bed and crying at the new Robinson’s advert (separate activities).

My life has changed a lot in the past few years. I’ve lived in three cities, had four jobs, learnt new skills, made new friends, lost track of some old ones and all of this means that my identity has constantly been evolving.

Late last year I quit my volunteer job after three and a half years supporting children and young people. I was doing too much, missing too many shifts because of diary conflicts and I knew that pulling back was the right thing to do. I don’t regret it for a moment because the young people I supported needed more than I could offer at that time. But the thing that surprised me the most about quitting is how sad I felt about losing the ‘volunteer’ part of my identity. It was one of my proudest hats and I never wanted to take it off.

Now my identity is set to change again. Ask me who I am in 7 weeks time and I won’t be able to say “I am a student”. Since 2010 I’ve been studying part time with The Open University. I knew I wanted to work for the charity I volunteered for and that my chances would improve if I had a qualification that related to children and young people (previously I’d studied communications then TV production). I worked shifts, had plenty of free time and needed to make my brain work hard. I missed education, wanted a challenge and so The OU was perfect.

Four years later I’m about to finish the third of seven modules it will take me to complete a degree. I’ve studied health and social care systems, working with children, young people and families and this year I’ve studied death and dying. And I’m ready to stop.

My efforts paid off and I now work full time for the charity I volunteered for in a role that is brilliant and varied and excites me every day. It definitely fits my dream job criteria! Studying part time requires around 8-16 hours a week, on top of work. I only see my guy at weekends so I cram my studies into evenings Monday to Thursday. More recently I’ve taken to studying every lunchtime while my colleagues soak up the sun. Throw in the time I need to eat, see my friends, catch up with my family, read, write and exercise and frankly, I am exhausted.

Uni has become the part of my identity I dislike the most. The direction my course is heading in is interesting, but different from the path my career is heading in. There’s a lot to learn in the digital world and lately I’ve felt like uni absorbs the time I could be using to get better at my job, better at writing, better at networking and better at helping others.

Although my identity is changing, I am ok with not being a student anymore. University is just one way to learn, and I’m looking forward to being able to use this extra time in a productive way. I’m looking forward to guilt free no-plans evenings without the constant feeling of “I need to read this chapter” and “I need to write 1500 words on psychological theories of grief”. I miss cooking and want to spend more time trying new recipes. Last year I started making a patchwork quilt which I haven’t touched in months so I can’t wait to pick up that project again. I'm excited to invest more time in my blog and my writing and my friendships.

Who knows, I might even put my volunteer hat back on, because that is one part of my identity I really do miss.


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