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Who am I – Really?

“Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.”

Blaise Pascal

How do groups you belong to contribute to and shape your identity?  There are vast groups, such as humankind, but also those more specific to an individual.  For me, this would be German/French ancestors, Americans, Catholics, Wisconsinite turned Virginian (relocators), and educators.

I would have to say the groups that have most contributed to and shaped my personal identity, however, are much smaller, personal groups.  These groups are the ones that require building personal relationships.  Most of these have been developed over time and shared experiences.  Family, for me, is the foundational relationship, and is comprised of many subsets.

As a young child in the 1960’s in the heartland of America – the middle class Midwest, I had it pretty good.  And I was very sheltered.  My father was one of the youngest of a family of 13, so family gatherings were enormous undertakings, but great fun.  My mother was one of two girls, with a sister 12 years her senior.  She lived most of her life as an only child. The tragedies and idiosyncrasies of life and politics in the 60’s did not permeate the walls of our household or our innocent ears.  My parents rarely argued, and did their best to provide for us within their means of a single-income household.

I am the middle child of two sisters.  We attended Catholic grade school through 8th grade.  My older and younger sisters went to Catholic high school from there.  I chose public education.  I’m not sure why this was my choice or why I made it.  It may have had something to do with my friends at the time, ventured on to public school with me.  Public school in the 1970’s in Racine, WI meant that we would be the cohort of change as integration became a reality in our city.  The eye-opening experience of passive resistance and the subsequent experience of cafeteria race riots all played a part in the changing of our culture, and the opening of closed world of my childhood; I found I could not only take risks in this more open-minded environment, but succeed.  Life was changing around me, but not because of me.  I became a first generation college student in my family.  My family ‘group’ began to give way to classmates, friends, roommates, and fellow teachers.

“You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you. . .

On January 28, 1986 the Challenger exploded.  Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was aboard.  I watched the shuttle explode on TV for the entire day the packing crew was loading the truck moving me and my husband from Wisconsin to Virginia.  I had a barely three month old child in my arms.  Life was changing around me, but not because of me — again.

For nearly three decades, a profound contributor to my identity has been my family.  They shaped me as a wife, then as a mother.  They contributed to shaping my career as a teacher and an entrepreneur.  The groups that flow in and out of ones life during the decades of family building contribute more to identity, I believe than ancestry or genetics.  Some are there only as our children have common activities. Some remain — like our friends celebrating 30 years of marriage.  But their lives have also changed and been influenced by our ‘group’ of pseudo-family as much as they have influenced ours.  Is it the values, the ‘thoughts of yesterday,’ that shaped our identity early on that create the unique effect of these groups on our lives?  Life continued to change around me, but also because of me.

. . . and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.”

The groups of my past shaped my core identity.  What does this mean to those groups in which I currently participate?  Specifically, what does this mean to my class team?  We have chosen the name ‘Not in Mayberry’ to represent our knowledge that what has been comfortable and true in the past may not be where the future is, and that we should seek the uncomfortable, the new, the risky so that we can grow as a group and as individuals from the experiences of our team.  Life could change around us, AND because of us.


One Response to “Who am I – Really?”

  1. What a delightful post! I am especially intrigued by the theme that pain and discomfort push us to grow. It puts in a place to reconsider what we know to be true, to question our tacit assumptions about life and love. But, it seems that coming from a place of love and support gives us the strength and fortitude to move forward. I like to think that coming from a magical place like Mayberry, where life lessons can be learned in a 30 minute segment and everyone is polite and metaphors are incredibly obvious would give anyone the support to live life to its fullest. I love your team name because I think we all have a “Mayberry” in our hearts but there is so much more that we all bring to the table.

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