It's almost official! In May of 2017, I will be done with my first Master's Degree. It still doesn't seem all that close, but last week I got a form to fill out asking for information to be included in the graduation program. While most of the information was easy to come up with, one question caused me to pause.
The form wanted me to fill out my full name and a city I wanted listed next to it. My first thought was to put Kenosha, since that is where we are living now. I began to think, however, about what place I most associate with myself and I realized how many I have to choose from.
This left me all the more confused. See, I grew up in Palatine, went to a Catholic grade school and then a public high school there. But I also worked at a special recreation association in Rolling Meadows, went to college in Elmhurst and was a student worker in a variety of offices, got my first job in an elementary school in Vernon Hills, and now I work for a high school district in Glenview and live in Kenosha. This led me to another realization.
We are not only associated with places, but businesses, schools, religions, jobs... My best friend and I were discussing life, as we often do, and she shared how hard it has been for her and her husband since he left the Marines. "My identity for the last four years has been a military spouse," she said. "Now, it is hard to come up with an identity."
Since moving to a new state where I don't know anyone, I have been struggling a bit with my own identity. Sure, I have things that I identify myself as: teacher, sister, daughter, wife, poet, pet parent, and the list goes on. I am realizing that everyone has so many different things they use to identify themselves. So what city most defines me now that I am not living in the place I did for the majority of my first 23 years?
How can we ever state one city, business, school, or even sometimes religion that defines us? We are who we are because of all of these things. For now, Kenosha is home, but who knows where I will end up living next? For now, Olivet Nazarene is my school, but who knows where I will end up studying next? For now, I work in Glenview as a transition teacher, but who knows where I will end up working next?
While it might not seem very concrete, I am relieved with this revelation. I am not defined by where I am living (though I am loving living in Kenosha). I am defined by all the places I have lived or visited and the experiences I have had. I still don't know what city I will list in the graduation program next to my name, but I have found comfort in reflecting on all the places I have been and all the places I have yet to go.