Every person is born without a purpose. Without any knowledge as to who, what, why or how they are…living is all that is known. To live is the only instinctive action as well as feeling that is not witnessed before being recreated. After a what is established, the who and the why are undoubtedly left to ponder for many many years to come. An established coherent identity will never be handed over from person to person. It cannot be pre-ordained nor destined nor passed down from generation to generation. Many would argue that a person’s culture is what makes them instead of piecing it to the greater picture which is the individual’s identity as a whole, culture included. The truth of the matter is an identity is a fragile piece of art that is always growing and always breaking, there is no definite conclusion and no absolute matter that it must consist of, and it is one of the most complex infatuations that lies within every single person.
Wether the year is 1825 or 2005, racial identification will always exist. The concept of racial identification is that which allows an individual to establish him or herself as a part of a group of people based on ethnicity. This type of behavior is unvoluntary, many are already born into a set culture which they ultimatley had no decision to choose, but was instilled upon them by tradition. It is unfair to explain to a human being that it belongs in a caste or group of others alike and to hand such person traditions and stories and tell them that that is who they are. In her article, ‘Race and The Construction of Human Identity’, Audrey Smeadly addresses the issue that many young Americans are unable to cope with the economic status of their ethnic culture they identify with; “In the United States, race became the main form of human identity, and it has had a tragic effect on low status ‘racial’ minorites and on those who percieve themselves as of ‘mixed race’.” Placing a person into a group regardless of personality or morale, but soley based on skin color is damaging. It can cause an individual to question their very existance. If said person does not, for some reason, fit in with the rest, then he or she feels excluded and ashamed thus leading to more internal doubt and self questioning. Probing to find their true self, their identity.
The tradition that is passed down from generation to generation is finding itself in a different time. No longer is the youth revolting against organizations or government policies for their freedom, they have that. No longer are self values and self rights being fought for by those who feel they deserve it, its already been done. The youth of today hardly seeks answers from their ancestors to provide them with clues of who they are and why they are important, because it has already been said and done somewhere. It used to be that if there was doubt or question concerning identity, ancestors’s words were sought to ensure everything. They provided heritage, triumphant stories, and memorable reasons to be proud of whatever race and ethnicity a person seemed to stem from. I am a 100% Mexican-American girl, and I know about 2% of the history of Mexico. My parents were born and rasied in Mexico yet somehow I fail to feel the connection between the land that my entire family is from, and myself. I do not know the cultures, I do not know the traditions, I am unaware of the fashions and stories that deem familiar across the border. Growing up in the United States without a culture has rendered me to find my own culture. I look within myself instead of at my ancestors to find who I am. So far the emotional journey is impecably comparable to the physical journey carried on my generations centuries before me to declare who they were.
America is growing compiled of thousands of cultres and traditions, no one to call stable or a main idea. It is a melting pot. It is the land of opportunity. It is a place to forget ancient tradition and reinvent everything. People come in and forget their culture’s traditions and valued ancestory in exchange for a chance to be who they want to be. The problem is the majority do not know what they want, and their war begins. Their spiritual war is the never ending journey to redemption, a journey in discovering that beneath layer upon layer of family stories and history, they are someone else. A war to find out the who’s and the how’s instead of the efervesent why’s. “We are the middle chidren of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war…Our Great Depression is our lives. We have all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we wont. And we are slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off ” (Fincher). Today’s society will not find itself in a magazine or a book. It will not discover it’s hidden past by watching a film dedicated to do just that. It will not learn by hearing stories of past civilizations who were meant to pave the way. It will piece together slowly in an arbitrating fashion to emulate it’s own individuality. The generation growing up today was not raised on homemade culture and anticipated tradition to pass down. It has been slowly disinegrating in a subconsious effort to start a new revolution. A spiritual revolution. The spark of a spiritual revolution instills fear and panic in people. It acknowledges the fact that inside of someone nothing is stable, as opposed to a the general idea of culture. In culture, there is definition, answers, and reasons but inside the spirit of a man lies doubt, rebellion, estrangement, and uncertainty. The only thing tougher than finding out the answers to these internal questions, is figuring out what to do with them once answered.
In visiting other parts of the world one can speculate just how different America is, poverty and economic issues aside. The people have something different inside them, there is an underlying issue that cannot be disguised. Their culture seems to have been retained and the role they take is the role they play. A wife, a shopkeeper, a business man, anything…culture is at the root of everything and it not only brings them together but removes any fear of not belonging. In America, many people are born into nothing. In the sense of culture and race, there is no root, sometimes not even a stem. This generation is being pushed to learn through experience, trial and error, mistake after mistake, triumph after triumph. The root of the unifying culture was left untended and has evidently begun to die and unfortunatley few are familiar with the care of this plant, in fact most have little or no knowledge of the hard work it took to keep the plant alive for centuries and centuries before. My ten year old cousin who lives in Mexico can school me on everything there is to know about Mexican tradition. She can make homemade tortillas and teach anybody how to dance in a traditional way. Her mother and my mother were born in the exact same household, under the exact same rules. My mother moved to California when she was twenty years old and wanted to reinvent herself. She still knew the traditions, the stories, she knew the recipes and ingredients for passed down home remedies, and practiced them often. Somewhere along individual priorities and wanting to be accepted as a hardworking mother, she took on other priorities. She got a job, and went to school to get a degree. Her father never let her attend college and her rebellion and desire to be something else was something that would never die. My mother wanted to find herself, she knew her culture but did not know herself. Throughout the years, her cooking became less present and she adapted new ways of dealing with situations, her way. I can not make a homemade tortilla…yet, but I can establish the fact that if I want to, I will and if I do not want to, I won’t.
To rediscover oneself or to try to establish a newfound identity is something that knows no boundries, no age limits or background required. Everyone has the potential and ability to embark on the journey of self discovery. In order to truly find oneself, a lifetime is the required coursework length. After an epitomy or catastrophic event there may be a gateway to this, but never a definite answer. It is human nature to change, to evolve and adapt. Holding on to old tradition and following life recipes is in a sense, going against that very human nature. Culture is a beautiful thing but it cannot define a person, it cannot fullly explain the who’s or the how’s that indefinitley flutter the minds of every single person on this earth. Identity knows no culture and it never will. Actress Ellen Barkin’s divorce led her to say this “At 53, I get to rediscover myself” (Northrop). She is proving that the act of self discovery really is never complete, regardless of social status and age. There are always questions and “what if’s” left unsatisfied. Barkin’s marraige ended leading her to find her means of self-identity. It can occur at any age in any city and to any person. In fact, no one is exempt from asking themselves who they are. “For identity is never ‘established’ as an ‘achievenment’ in the form of a personality armor, or of anything static and unchangable” (Erikson). Finding an identity takes courage and strength, it demands constant determination and the will to want to love. A will to love is greatly differed than the will to want to love. The first is a feeling, the second is a need for that particular feeling. A need to know is an unmistakably terrorizing essence that if left unanswered can lead anyone astray and lost. To give up on this would be to give up on life, to give up on the person’s very own essence.
It is said that people never stop falling in love, they only get married and forget the opportunities they once had. The concept of finding something and having it answer all questions and remove all doubt is nothing new. This civilization wants nothing more than to know everything, and not only that but to understand everything as well. To fully understand anything one must engulf theirselves in it and embrace it to the fullest. A skim through just wont do when it comes to identity or anything else in that matter. This is why it takes a lifetime. It is not a program or a period of angst in teenage years, it is a lifelong journey that cannot be defined by one single thing or experience. It takes a whole movement to feel the truth of self identification. I am nineteen years old and I cannot tell you who I am. I can tell you what I stand for and what I believe in. I can address the things I agree with and the policies I stand against. My morals and codes of conduct have been pieced together by situations and inicidents as well as the observation of every single person around me. There is no definite answer as to who I am, and there will not be for a very long time. If I become a writer it will be something I do, not a definition of who I am. A self-paced life full of learning and mistakes will never go out of style. Everybody’s life is self-paced if they want it to be, if they allow themselves to establish and find their own persona.
An identity is an untangible as spirit. It cannot be seen or heard but it is felt. Alike the spirit, one’s identity is one of the greatest and most influential ideas. It moves and shapes the person to make decision upon decision and action upon action. “The more one writes about this subject, the more the word becomes a term for something as unfathomable as it is all-pervasive” (Smedly). Identity cannot be grasped, per se. It can only be understood to an extent. Life, in general, can only be understood to an extent. Making generalizations and contests to constantly prove otherwise is something imperative to maintaining moral sanity and social stability. People do not like to hear of chaos or destruction, especially internal chaos and self destruction. The fear that they too posess these ablilties and questions heightens their own internal battle with themselves. To have a permanent source of finding stability is a survival skill humans are embedded with since birth. There has to be somewhere to run to, or else there is madness. In madness, there is truth. And the majority of society is deathly afraid of finding their own truths. In discovering their truths, everything will be revealed and deeper questions would arise. Waking up this part of the brain as well the spirit is the true essence of discovering a coherent identity. It is the first step to begin to sunconsiously answer questions and dig for the more deeper answers that lie beneath the surface of a culture or organized tradition.
Inside every person is the unconcievable. There is the ability to feel what cannot be seen and to form an identity when no one else can witness the process. It is internal and in that way, makes for an extremely difficult obstacle. Those who share their experiences and downfalls have the greatest courage of all. I am writing a memoir of my mother’s life and of her experiences that have shaped her to become the person she now is. Her life was pieced together by her memories and her memories were pieced together from experience, not from what anyone has told her. She relived every gratifying and disappointing memory when telling me. There were tears there was laughter, death and births, marraiges and seperartions, and every other obstacle known to mankind. She said the one thing that hurt the most was not knowing who she was. Not knowing what she was meant for or who she was supposed to be erroded her brain in making desicions and choosing different lifestyles to find that answer. She is nowhere near done finding who she is, she says. Now that she has accepeted the fact that there is no quick fix, no short answer, her journey has become a glorious one full of joy as well as tragedy. To have love to have hate, to experience gain and then loss, to be built up then broken down, these instances are what shape a person. These are what establish an identity.
An artist never is never fully satisfied with their work. They will always find things to fix or remove, lines to add or erase. A human is an artist, adding lines and erasing strays from their very own self. An immaculate work of art is exactly what a life is. A blank canvas and infinite tools and resources to develop whichever art form desired. And just as it was painted it can be washed off. A substantial life is one in which the person allows themselves to experience anything, regardelss of culture, race, caste, economic status, social status, or ancestor. There is no one to blame but oneself for the very actions that have molded and created the identity that is. Everybody is lost but no one dares admit it because to find oneself is the hardest and greatest journey of all time which sooner or later will come up. To keep writing and erasing, painting and washing, sketching and re-writing, imitating and recreating life is one of the most magnificant ablitites humans posess. Putting that to use will eventually, slowly but eventually lead to self-discovery.