Throughout this post I’ll be talking about identity a lot, so I’d like to start by defining what that word means to me. The simplest thing that I can think to say is when we ask ourselves the question, “Who am I?” what comes to mind? I like to break my answer up into two parts: the roles I play and character traits. By roles, I mean things like father, friend, profession – the areas of our lives where we attempt to derive purpose; and with character traits, I’m talking about stuff like pretty, funny, short, smart, etc. – stuff that’s less important than our role, but still significant in determining how we view the world and how we feel the world views us.
I also won’t be addressing religious/spiritual answers to identity because that’s an area that I’m still working through myself. I will be using Buddhism as a means of deconstructing identity, but I won’t be talking about Buddhism’s answer to who we ultimately are. Most religions/spiritual beliefs would say that we are an eternal soul, or the Universe, or nature, or the image of God, or something along those lines, and while these concepts of who we are are certainly worth delving into, they are not something I feel confident talking about, so I’ll be limiting this post to a discussion of secular identity.
More specifically, I’ll be talking about the loss of identity that many people experience after they finish their schooling.