Son, brother, friend, partner, father, employee, entrepreneur, athlete, Marine. These are all titles that, in one way or another, I have been referred to as.
But what am I? What is my true identity?
Is it how I identify myself? Or is it as others identify me? Is it an external title such as one listed above, or is it an intrinsic “feeling”? Are you a friend or are you just someone that truly cares about and is compassionate for other people?
This is something that I am constantly struggling with.
As a young person, let’s say prior to age 18. I feel as if no one truly has an identity. Everything is awkward. You’re trying to figure out where you fit in, where others fit in and how it all fits together. Lots of trial and error. I feel like that’s how it should be.
As we get a little older we begin to assume different identities and are assigned correlating titles.
This is, for me, where things start to get very gray. As I entered the Marine Corps after high school graduation, this is where I assumed my first true identity. I was a Marine. This was not only a title, but my identity, and I carried it with me proudly. If I’m being completely truthful, its an identity I feel I carried too long. See, I let this identity control and define everything I did in my life long after separating from the Marine Corps. I feel that this has been an ongoing discussion within the veteran community for quite some time. Moving on from that identity of Marine, Sailor, Soldier to the next phase of life. How long do you or should you ride that wave? When is the right time to let it go and move on to a new identity? For myself, the thought of this left me feeling many different emotions. Guilt being the strongest of them all. I felt as if putting the identity of Marine in my past was turning my back on all of those that I served with and more importantly turning my back on those that we lost.
Even after being married, and having children, I still put the identity of Marine ahead of that of husband or father. As an employee in my first jobs after leaving the Marine Corps, I still went out of my way to make sure that people knew that I was a Marine first. As I was taught in boot camp, I continued to put the title Marine ahead of everything else in my life.
At some point, I cant pin down exactly when maybe in the last year or so. The importance of being Noah the Marine began to fade internally. It began to feel less relevant and less important. The problem was, I couldn’t identify anything else to replace this identity with. I had been looking at it all wrong. I had always associated identity with what I did. A job title. Your identity in my mind had to be a status symbol. A way of determining where in the pecking order you fell. When truly I needed to look intrinsically. Is it a requirement to identify yourself as just one thing? Why can’t you be many things? There is no rule that says you must commit yourself to one identity forever. You should be able to try new things, make new friends, let some go. Put old identities in the past in order to make room for new ones in the future. Don’t allow people to pin you down to being just one dimensional. This world has way too many opportunities to explore and experiences to offer. Try as many as you can. You have one life to live, why not be as many things as you possibly can during that one life.
Son, brother, friend, partner, father, employee, entrepreneur, athlete, Marine. All of these things make up my identity and make me who I am today. I plan on continuing to expand this list during my time on this rock, and I hope you do as well!