“It doesn’t matter to me what you’ve done; I love you for who you are.” Kaela said that to me when I was on my way back home from a funeral in Chicago – from revisiting my old life there. It was quite probably the single most freeing thing anyone could have ever said to me. She loves me for who I am. But who am I?
For twenty nine years, I’ve felt like a non person. I didn’t really identify as anything. I didn’t really have big dreams, goals, and aspirations. I rarely have strong opinions about anything. I didn’t have a solid definition. I was without an identity. Even as a Christian, you have your “identity in Christ,” but what on Earth does that even mean?! It does hold some meaning, but it doesn’t help much; you still have to figure yourself out.
To identify as something may seem inconsequential, but it’s really important because it shapes the effect you have on the world around you, and it solidifies the world within you. It changes the way people see you.
I read that the Cleveland Indians are phasing out the image of Chief Wahoo. There is, of course, heated debate over this. Fans of the baseball team cling to this image as the beloved face that they’ve worn for over a hundred years. They claim that it pays honorable tribute to the first Native American to play major league baseball, Louis Sockalexis of the Penobscot Tribe. The Penobscot peoples rage that Chief Wahoo is a caricature that mocks their people and promotes racism against them. Identity and image matters. This is so heated because both groups of people know that identity is important. By the way, there have been many people – including the Penobscot Tribe and the Sockalexis family – officially protesting the use of Chief Wahoo annually since 1973; this is not new, and it isn’t a hip bandwagon for this crybaby generation.
After twenty seven years of wanting one, I finally buzzed my hair and got a mohawk. It’s great; I wish I’d done it much sooner. But the most amazing thing about it is how weird it… isn’t. It feels free. It feels fitting. I feel like I look in the mirror and I finally recognize myself. But it isn’t the haircut. I mean, it *is* the haircut, but it’s much deeper than that. It’s the fact that I’m finally able to accept and embrace what was already there within me. I’m finally able to freely be myself, whomever I am, and embrace it without fear. It took me nearly thirty years, but I finally have an identity.