Shaping My Identity
All my life
I have strived to fit in. I’d done whatever it would take. As far back as kindergarten, I can remember what it was like not fitting in. Sometimes, I would fall in with the bad crowd, because it was the only crowd that accepted me. I wasn’t heading down the right track. But there was
light at the end of this tunnel of darkness.
I am who I am for a reason. It isn’t a coincidence,
or an act of chance. My identity is revealed to me through the experiences in
my life that have helped shape it. Likewise, my embodied experiences in high
school, as a result of learning meaningful life lessons and as a consequence of developing my social life, have helped shape
who I have become.
would prove to be the most memorable and valuable experience of my life. It was
certainly the experience that helped shape my overall identity in all its complex aspects.
Some of these aspects include how I interact socially, my love for music, and my principles for relationships.
This all began
way back in my freshman year of high school. Prior to my days at St. Joseph
High School, I had a pretty disappointing social life. Psychologically, I’d known it wasn’t healthy to be withdrawn from social interaction, because
it was depriving me of necessary life skills and internal emotional development. Because
of growing up this way, I often found it difficult to connect with my peers. I
was often left out of the loop, so to speak, even despite my best efforts to put myself in it.
I needed desperately to get socially involved with my peers, but it wasn’t going to happen overnight or be easy.
As the weeks went by in my freshman year, I found myself pulling away from my own class and bonding
more with the older classes. I became close with a few of the seniors. It was no surprise, because prior to high school, I had always fit in with acquaintances not of my own
age group. Usually these were people considerably younger or older. And as of a young age, I preferred to socialize with girls instead of guys.
So, how does this pertain to my social life in my freshman year of high school?
As you can see in the photograph, I stood with an older crowd—of females, a trend whose explanation lies in my
life-long rejection from male peers. My big breakthrough that first year was
coming out from isolation into the beginning of social involvement. I was able
to do this by finding a good group of people who didn’t reject me. Besides
one male best friend from my class, however, my peer social life was still having no progress.
But that was about to change, because I was about to begin a journey of self-discovery—starting my sophomore
was the year of the September 11th attacks. I remember very clearly
the shock of hearing the terrible news over the loudspeaker after first period and then watching the plane collision with
the Twin Towers
over and over again. It seems that violence had become the big issue that year.
Not just terrorism, but any kind of violence.
Even school violence. My English teacher, Mr. Carosella, held auditions
one day for a small play that dealt with the effects of school violence. This
was the beginning to social development with peers of my own gender.
The play was
called Bang, Bang You’re Dead, written by William Mastrosimone. It examined the hows, whys, and aftereffects of school violence, while putting a troubled young teen under
a psychological microscope. Mr. Carosella made the play a project for his sophomore
class. The whole class auditioned for one
of two roles. He cast us based on talent, ability, and the
characteristics of the person that seemed to best fit the role. Although
I was not cast for a main role, I had one of the most memorable lines in the play.
“Yo, bad boy!” I bellowed out across the room, rehearsal after
rehearsal, performance after performance. Engulfed entirely in black attire including
a bandana, I quickly established myself a “tough guy” image that I’ve ever since been unable to escape.
The play was
performed all over the place—in a church basement, at my school, and at several other schools. It gave me a chance to work together with my peers that year and to discover a large part of my identity
today: my love for music. This is
because in the play, I played guitar and composed music for it along with my good friend Josh and my estranged friend Geoff,
whom I had had prior difficulties with. Geoff and I did not get off on the right
foot freshman year, but music was what brought us together to work out our differences sophomore year.
I discovered just how much I really loved music and became insanely obsessed with my new love.
I was more dedicated to the guitar than anything else in the world, and I had friends with which to share my love of
music. Everyday, Geoff and I would go over guitar and bass tabs for a band called
Weezer. I would help my friend Josh
learn songs and chords his guitar. And all was well in my social life.
started out with a bang. I was getting along wonderfully with my friends, and
I was closer than ever with my class. I finally won over my peers, and I also
won over a heart—my first girlfriend. I was truly happy that I had found
a huge part of myself. But I was about to throw a huge part away.
Stephanie and I started dating February 14, 2003—Valentine’s Day. Along with my newly found companionship, I was beginning to realize my mistake. It was the downfall of what I had worked so hard to create. I began to shun away my friends and isolate myself with Steph in complete ignorance to how unhealthy my
choices were becoming. Before I knew it, I was seeing very little of my friends
and a little too much of Steph and her friends. After the breakup thirteen months
later, I had little time left to get back on the right track with my friendships.
It was the middle of the third quarter senior year, and I came to realize just how valuable a friend is. I realized the most important lesson of them all: A girlfriend
can break your heart, and a best friend will always be there when you get back. That
one best friend I had freshman year and throughout the time until Steph’s reign, was my best friend once again after
Steph and I broke up. My friendship with Joe never died. And to this day it hasn’t. I spent every free night
this summer with him in Fox Chapel, playing cards and cruising around.
social changes, another embodied experience occurred that truly shaped my identity.
I got my driver’s license on my eighteenth birthday. That was November
8, 2003. It didn’t take more than three months before I had to see my life
flash before my eyes in a car accident.
for school senior year in February, I had just pulled onto the main road off of the back road I live on. Accelerating to about thirty or thirty five miles per hour, I began to notice the car sway uncontrollably. Before I could do anything, it was too late to even try. In mere seconds that seemed to last forever, my car had flipped over one full rotation and turned around
completely off the road on the other side. I emerged from the scene with only
a few minor cuts and aches, but with a permanent mark in my identity.
The car was totaled. Working for months, I had finally
saved enough money to buy a new car. By June of this summer, I had my new used
car—a faded red 1992 Toyota Tercel. It was definitely not half as nice
as my first car which had been a tan ’94 Geo Prizm, but I came to fall in love with my hard earned set of wheels. I spent the majority of my summer behind the wheel going everywhere I felt like going. There was nothing like cranking up the stereo to a Nickelback CD, lighting up a Marlboro
Menthol, and having a cold bottle of Mountain Dew on the seat next to me. I’ll
never forget how good it felt to be free this summer. Because of this experience,
whenever I get frustrated, driving always makes me feel better.
I quit my job
in August and stopped earning income to pay the insurance on the car. So, now
it sets at home, waiting in patience until I get a new job and pay for the insurance.
But if high school has taught me anything, it is to know your priorities. From
this I know that right now I need to focus on my academics and not on my car. I
can think about driving again next summer.
After earning my high school diploma, I begin a new chapter of my life at SRU.
My high school diploma is a symbol of everything I am today because of everything I’ve gone through in those
four years. It really means a lot to me.
It means a lot because everything I am today is because of everything I became in high school.
Through good and bad, these experiences helped shape my present identity. I
am a musical, socially active, well-rounded individual, and I can stand apart in my individuality without insecurity, because
I know who I am. If I look back on my freshman year in high school and compare
it to this freshman year in college, I’m more than twice the person now than I was then.
I can’t even measure how much I have matured and developed mentally, intellectually, and emotionally since then. Like I said, I am who I am—for a reason.
I’m grateful for all those embodied experiences as they have brought me growth into forming my identity.