On the sliding scale of time that gradiently builds and ebbs and recedes I am perpetually being re-context-ed and being iteratively re-inserted into particular frames of reference and spheres of existence. I am simultaneously (at this point in time) (in no particular order) physically framed: a mortal, a human, and a male; overlapping-ly framed: a man, a child, a son, a husband, a friend, an ex-boyfriend, an occasional ass, but most of the time decent; functionally framed:an employee, a husband (again), a neighbor, a citizen, a representative, a cook, a linguist, and a discourse analyst; and characteristically framed: creative, a reader, obstinate, sour-faced when I am actually quite contented and happy, a driven individual, annoying, entertaining, friendly, unconcerned with things some people think I ought to be concerned about, temperate, calm, chaotic, paradoxical, slimy, ambiguous, wrong, right, and indifferent.
As individuals we have many types of roles and expectations.
These roles and expectations have a place in community.
Let’s assume that individuality exists because there is community. Let’s agree that community on a macro-level means relationship. Community defines the application of our roles, defines the way that we relate to the community at large. Throughout life we have the option to naturally accept or naturally decline participation in any given role.
Our descriptive and identifying labels probably exists because of some micro-role played out in some micro-plot-line of thought or action or interaction or relation.
For me, like any other human, each particular facet of my being carries a whole set of relationships and contexts that also need to be understood if I am to be understood in full. For instance, being a husband suggests a living spouse, which at one point meant a new marriage, which meant in-laws, which meant new grandparents, most likely new siblings, and new aunts and uncles. If the actual relationships were not so big of a factor in defining that new portion of my identity, then certainly, the way in which those relatives perceived me in context of how they perceived my spouse certainly carried some sort of value and created expectations for me (including the way I was to interact as a new and extended member of the family). Furthermore, if family isn’t enough, there were new friends with whom I also entered into relationship, including their sets of expectations, ad nausea. And this is only the external relations in marriage – I have left aside any relations and expectations that I shared with my spouse.
What about the rest of the roles? It starts getting crazy when you try to make sense of it all.
In addition to holding a variety of roles I also have sets of attributes that are either activated or deactivated depending on which role I am satisfying. These attributes are features that define and differentiate so that you can determine who I am and what I am supposed to be doing and why, and how, and when, and where. I am tour staff, I am the person who knows how to get to Pittsburgh, I am short so I am not the person to change the lightbulb, I am quick so I am the person to run down the street and catch the delivery driver because he forgot a package, I am whatever I am, in terms of attributes, in terms of adjectives.
This is not compartmentalizing; this is maximizing self-awareness to harness it as a tool to leverage the options placed before me. This reminds me of that Aboriginal saying: The more you know the less you need. I know myself. If we do not know our capabilities, our roles, our nature, then we cannot expect to market those skills to the people who find them valuable in employees, in dates, in spouses, in friends, it voters, et cetera. Although I am not an objectivist, Ayn Rand tells us that absolutely the writer must know the essentials if they are to write anything of value at all.
You as a multi-hat wearing individual absolutely must know your essence if you are to accomplish anything at all.
As we grow older and accumulate hats we learn that roles do the things they are able to do because of gained experience and knowledge. Time changes student into teacher, child into adult. But some roles can overlap and occur simultaneously, such as child, student, pitcher, class clown, et cetera. Holding a particular role does not necessarily preclude an individual from holding other particular roles. It may preclude, but it does not necessarily preclude.
Roles overlap and occur simultaneously, some precede, some follow, some preclude at particular times, and others are instances of roles filled immaturely in more mature ways; iterations of roles that continue perpetually until our bones petrify, (skeleton is a meronym of body…that means skeleton is a part of body), or roles that we chose to turn on and off, but irrespective of the time slots that the roles fill they occur between the womb and the tomb, riga tiga tum tum.
I am not your friend until you meet me.
Without being my friend, you can still know the intimate fact based on my usage of “womb” and “tomb” with that nonsensical four word sequence in the prior paragraph that I am culturally literate enough in some particular culture to be able to reference West Side Story.
And we all know so much.
We can’t be satisfied to know that we have an identity or a personality, or that we belong to any particular culture or collection of cultures. We need to want to know what to do with that knowledge. We need something more here. But we operate on a daily basis with the awareness that we need to know our materials and our tools in order to do anything productively creative with our skills and resources. Accordingly, we need to investigate the nature of our identities, how our identities converge to belong to cultures, how those cultural memberships alter our identities, and then how to use that knowledge in our chaotically complex lives; we need to practice multifaceted learning for this multifaceted living.