How Do You Define Who You Are?

My great grandfather stands in the middle of the photo, and while I challenge you to find a lick of family resemblance, he passed his love of the Mississippi down to me and helped shape the woman I am today.

However, defining self happens in many ways:

Male or Female
Southerner/ Northeasterner / North westerner / South westerner / Midwesterner / Texan
Country of Origin
Ethnicity
Religious persuasion
Blonde / Brunette / Redhead
Athlete / Couch potato
I’ll even go so far as to include: Human / Alien

The list could grow long…or not. It all depends on you.

During my drive to workout this morning, I slipped into the flow. I’m not speaking of the traffic kind, though I certainly navigated that one, too. One minute I was on Main Street headed north past the remains of a ramshackle old filling station with redbrick pillars supporting a sagging roof, and the next minute I eased into a hospital room with a patient in a coma watching a woman (my next protagonist) sort her way through anger, hurt and fear while trying to come to terms with her parents. She is bi-cultural and in her life, family is defined differently than the cultures where she plants a single foot.

In case you were wondering, lucky for me I arrive at my destination safe and on time. It’s a different sort of autopilot, but not one I recommend. Once there, I had a few minutes before my trainer arrived, so I hurriedly pulled out my iPhone and typed in notes – things I wanted to remember about my new character.

As I sit now, and transcribe those thoughts, emotions and sensations, I wonder if finishing Karen White’s book, The Beach Trees, yesterday, then last night watching Georgia Public Television – Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., followed by the movie version of Charles Dickens’ final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood became the catalyst to take my plotting to the next level.

The protagonist in The Beach Trees is a New Englander transitioning to the south and experiencing a degree culture shock from the sounds of language, to humidity, to music and food. It’s a world very different from her northern one and causes her to feel as if she’s in a foreign country.

In the program with Mr. Gates Jr., three people who define themselves through their chosen faith, (however, their cultural dissimilarities were obvious by their physical appearance) learned their DNA test results link them in ways that made the world seem much smaller. On the inside, their differences appeared nominal.

And not to be left out, Mr. Dickens’ story about the Drood family drove home the saying, “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” where in its conclusion it shows how three men (and one woman) bear absolutely no physical resemblance to each other, though, they are brothers born to the same father.

My protagonist will make a stand and define for herself who and what she is by using her own values, goals, and beliefs. The root idea of this story stems from the fact that I’d be a very rich woman today if I had a dollar for every time some ever asked me, “What are you?”

What stories do we tell ourselves about who and what we are?

So, I’m wondering, how do you define who you are?

I hope you’ll share.

Smiles,

Linda Joyce

About Linda Joyce

Award-winning writer and author Linda Joyce has deep southern roots intertwined with her Japanese heritage. She was born in Mississippi, though she considers New Orleans home. She has lived coast to coast in the United States and spent four years in Japan. She married her college sweetheart and now lives in Atlanta with her husband and three dogs: General Beauregard, Gentleman Jack, and Masterpiece Renoir. (Beau, Jack, and Reni.) She’s still trying to convince “the boys” that they are her pets, and not the other way around. Beau in particular is not buying it. She loves boiled peanuts, sushi, and grits. She and her husband share a passion for college football. Linda is a member of Romance Writers of America, Georgia Romance Writers, Atlanta Writer’s Club, and several other writing groups.
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9 Responses to How Do You Define Who You Are?

  1. I had to mull this one over for a minute before I realized I define myself by what I do. I am a writer. Other’s chose my most obvious trait (skin color) to put me in a group but does that defines more “what” I am than who. I struggle to put the difference between “who” and “what” into words, but who talks to my soul, values, beliefs, behaviors; what describes my biology – human, african-american, female.

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Miss Diva,
      Let your soul shine and the world will see that your brillance is much more than being a writer. I just had a wonderful exchange on FB about social identity, about how society exerts pressure on us to be – what it wants us to be. However, in my opinion, only I get to define who I am. What is something I do. Thank you so much for sharing.
      Smiles and Hugs,
      Linda Joyce

  2. I should have mulled longer…that should read, “…to put me in a group but that defines more “what”…”

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Miss Diva,
      Let your soul shine and the world will see that your brillance is much more than being a writer. I just had a wonderful exchange on FB about social identity, about how society exerts pressure on us to be – what it wants us to be. However, in my opinion, only I get to define who I am. What is something I do. Thank you so much for sharing.
      Smiles and Hugs,
      Linda Joyce

  3. Interesting post, Miss Linda. I remember in the 7th grade my Health teacher sitting a girl in front of the class and asking who she was. The girl answered by saying her name. The teacher kept asking the same question until the girl finally said, “I’m a girl.” That’s as far as it got. That lesson always stuck in my head because I remember what was going through my head every time that teacher asked the girl the question. I too started with my name, but then I went to girl, daughter, sister, etc.

    Nowadays I define myself in many different ways: writer, Southern, independent, determined and hopefully, loving and caring.

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Claire,

      Thank you for reposting my post. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. And, let me add Wonderful Friend to your list, as well as Leader. :-)
      In the past when I sat in a women’s circle, one of the things we did was to sit with another woman face to face, hands clasped, and each woman took a turn. The first one asks,” Who are you?” The woman answering, has to keep answering…for five minutes. It was an empowering exercise! Sounds very similar to what your teacher was promiting from your 7th grade classmate.
      Smiles,
      Linda Joyce

  4. Reblogged this on Claire Croxton Romance Author and commented:
    This is a really thought provoking post by Linda Joyce. Who are you?

  5. Russell says:

    “Who are you?” is very deep question, as posed by the rock band, The Who. There is the perception of how we see ourselves, and ourselves as others see us. My defining characteristics are integrity, loyalty, and humor. I am a writer, poet, musician, printer, carpenter, fisherman, friend, father, husband, and all around pain in the ass. Once all is said and done, it should make one helluva an obituary.

    • Linda Joyce says:

      Russell,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate that you have defined for yourself your core values: integrity, loyalty and humor. That says volumes to me about who you are as person. Integrity is on my list, too. I work to live from that place each day, knowing that my best looks different on different days.

      Smiles,

      Linda Joyce

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