Identity, unfamiliar situations, and an unguarded moment

SATURDAY, 10 MAY 2014

My identity functions optimally in certain situations. These situations include

– being in a relationship with a specific person;

– being a foreigner in Taiwan;

– specifically being a South African in Taiwan;

– being on my own; and

– working as an English teacher.

Will my particular identity function well enough if I suddenly have to negotiate a deal with someone in Mexico for two tonnes of steel? What if I have to go work on a sheep farm in Australia?

A challenge like this will depend on how flexible my identity is. Perhaps there are aspects of my identity in an intimate relationship that may be useful. Or perhaps there are aspects of my identity as a South African in Taiwan, or as an English teacher, or when I work on my own projects that can be adjusted to a situation significantly different from the environments and situations where my identity usually functions optimally.

If I cannot adapt my identity to a new environment, or to a situation with which I am not familiar, I will be in trouble.

It therefore follows that I must either remain in environments and situations where my particular identity functions optimally, or I will be forced to … broaden my identity. (How do you broaden your identity? Amongst other things, by exposing yourself to a wide variety of situations, environments, experiences, and to a broad spectrum of people.)

The question is, how well do you want your identity to function in those unfamiliar situations and environments? Would you want to make a good impression on everyone you meet? Would you want recognition as an authority in some area? Or would you simply want to perform a certain task, meaning your unique identity and personality can be suspended for the time being to some extent?

MONDAY, 19 MAY 2014

When you’re 23 years old, you don’t need much more than your ambitions, your dreams, your energy, and faith in your future … or rather, few people in your life expect that you lay more on the table than those things.

When you are 43, ambition, dreams, energy and positive talk are not good enough anymore. Friends, family, colleagues, even strangers expect that at the age of 43 you will have a house, a partner, a stable job, a good income, and most probably children. If any of these things are lacking in your life, many people tend to wonder what went wrong, and when.

And every now and then, in an unguarded moment, you wonder that yourself.

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